One last time! New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bring a weird mix of special services, reduced services, and even no service. Don’t be left stranded, know your options. Be sure to check out our comprehensive roundup of services for all Puget Sound transit agencies–including the ferries and the Monorail. Please be aware that apps like OneBusAway and Transit App may not show real-time arrival information, and may have incorrect scheduled data.
On a related note, services like ridesharing and Pronto’s bikesharing never have service reductions! But you might want to keep in mind things like surge pricing in mind if you’re an Uber rider. Have a happy New Year!
Seattle’s Design Review Program has a lot of upcoming meetings for new projects in the New Year, but one in particular has caught our attention. Meet 9002 Greenwood Ave N, a brand new four-story, 48-unit microhousing development in Greenwood. As far as we know, this is the first microhousing project to proceed through design review under the new microhousing rules. But before we get to the details of this project, we want to bring you up to speed on the new microhousing code.
A Bit of Background
Way back in October, the City Council adopted an ordinance to specifically regulate microhousing developments in the city. The adoption of new rules was in response to significant, longstanding concern amongst community groups, activists, and residents about microhousing and congregate housing projects. Previously, these developments were subject to the same rules that applied to all congregate housing developments like dormitories and senior housing. Projects would often proceed as townhouses by proposing maximum ratios of bedrooms to shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The City responded with a new set of rules to treat micorhousing and congregate housing differently in three key ways: separate definitions and intent, zoning district-specific rules, and the rigor of review by project scale.
Separate definition and intent. Microhousing and congregate housing are now clarified in the code as separate uses. In essence, microhousing are differentiated by the character of the living arrangement. Microhousing is geared toward independent living of residents in “small efficiency dwelling units”. Units required to be a minimum size of 220 square feet and contain a full kitchen. Previously, groups of eight sleeping rooms with a shared kitchen were permissible. Meanwhile, congregate housing is now geared more toward the elderly, infirmed, disabled, and students. Unlike small efficiency dwelling units, the Land Use Code explicitly discourages private kitchens and places no minimum size on units in congregate housing living arrangements.
Zone district-specific rules. Microhousing is effectively restricted to zones that permit multifamily dwelling uses like mixed use zones, commercial zones, and lowrise and midrise residential zones. Private congregate housing developments, however, are further restricted to only Urban Villages and Urban Centers with high density zoning types like Neighborhood Commercial 3, Midrise Multifamily, and Downtown zones. Although, exceptions are granted when congregate housing developments are owned by or affiliated with colleges, social welfare providers, and licensed support services.
Project review by scale. Most new microhousing and congregate housing projects are subject to some form of design review. As you can see in the table below, the entry threshold for design review begins at 5,000 square feet of gross floor area. This is basically the total square footage of a building. In the instance of the Greenwood project, the gross floor area is anticipated to be between 17,415 square feet and 18,694 square feet. Therefore, the project is subject Administrative Design Review, a type of design review that is geared toward a shorter process of public and neighborhood feedback on priority design issues.
The Greenwood microhousing will be located at the corner of Greenwood Ave N and N 90th St. The area is currently zoned as C1-40, a commecial/mixed use zone with a maximum height of 40 feet. The applicant is proposing a four-story apartment building, which meets the 40-foot maximum for the zone. At least 48 units will be provided, but the applicant is exploring an option to maximize the site with 50 units. Project amenities include a rooftop deck with green space, some private patios, and bike storage on the ground floor.
The site does present some challenges given that the eastern portion is steeply sloped. To address this, the applicant plans to retain the building into the sloped hillside. As you can see in the massing comparisons below, two structures are immediately adjacent to the site. On the north, there is a four-story apartment building while on the east there is a single-story single-family residence (which is also zoned C1-40). Despite how close the single-family residence may appear to the proposed structure, the applicant plans to maintain at least a 7-foot setback from the east property line.
The applicant is proposing three different massing options* for the new microhousing building (as seen above). To illustrate these, the applicant analyzed each option in detail through their design review submittal materials. I’ll provide some broad comparisons between the options based upon that as follows:
Options A and B would have 48 units while Option C (the applicant’s preferred option) would have 50 units.
Options A and C would have the most continuous frontage on Greenwood Ave N.
Options A and B would accentuate the corner by projecting it toward the street.
Option C would modulate the primary facade, but would leave overhanging facades on the north and south sides.
Options A and B would have corner entries while Option B would have an entry toward the center on Greenwood Ave N.
Option B would stepback the fourth floor from the south side.
Options A and C would have the most opportunity for landscaping along Greenwood Ave N frontage.
These are just a few of the comparisons that can be made between the options. But the issues of the project proposal could of course expand far beyond the scope of just these details. I do want to bring up one issue worth mentioning: frontage setbacks. Urbanists are often concerned with how much a building is setback, and in this instance the streets and sidewalk present an odd circumstance.
This project proposal consists of deep setbacks along both street frontages. Neither of these are exactly by the applicant’s choosing. The frontage of Greenwood Ave N has a very wide public right-of-way (90 feet to be exact). The applicant’s proposed layout would in effect have the apartment built right up to edge of the Greenwood right-of-way–even though the sidewalk does not begin for another 15 feet from that point.
How to Get Involved
If you’re interested in attending the community design review meeting, you can do so next week. The Northeast Design Review Board will convene its meeting at the Ballard Community Center located at 6020 28th Ave NW. The meeting starts promptly at 6.30pm and begins with a presentation by the applicant, followed by Q&A from Board, and ultimately an opportunity for public comment.
Alternatively, you can submit comments on the project to the project planner, Lindsay King. Should you choose to comment via e-mail, please ensure that you do so before Monday if you would like Lindsay to incorporate your comments into the Design Review Board packets. It is helpful to quote the project number (3018316 in this case), and comments should be carbon copied to PRC@seattle.gov. In order to be most effective, comment on issues that fall under the citywide and Greenwood/Phinney design review guidelines.
*It should be noted that these are the preliminary massings of the proposed structure. Further refinement of materials, architectural features, and layout modifications will be made in response to comments and feedback at a later stage.
There’s a Samoan man in sharp leather who calls me “Center of the Universe.” It’s because I that’s how I announce Third and Pike/Pine. Tonight, somewhere on Jackson, he launched into the following tirade, which I need to contextualize by saying it was yelled hoarsely by him with a smile on his face. I had just innocuously fared someone well with “happy holidays.” From the middle of the bus, which is scattered at this late hour with faces rugged but friendly:
“Stop sayin’ that shit, man, ‘happy holidays!’ It’s bullshit and you know it!” Arms histrionically waving in the air. “It’s about Christmas! It’s ‘Merry Christmas!’ This holiday is about praisin’ the Lord from up on high, man! Fuckin’ happy holidays, forget that brother, this is about Jesus!” I’m laughing and he is too. He’d be a great preacher.
“Is that right?”
“Yeah it’s right, praisin’ the greater glory of God, don’t hide it! You know better! It ain’t about the merchants, we can’t be celebrating the merchants, ‘happy holidays,’ they’re just tryna make money off tha Lord! Its about the, it’s about Jesus repayin’ our debts and rebuildin’ that church in three days! Don’t say ‘happy holidays!’ I heard you sayin’ that bull, it ain’t no happy holidays,”
“I been sayin’ both! You heard me mixin’ it up!”
“Merchants just after your money, everybody use it as an excuse to buy stuff, they max out their credit cards five years with a swipe! Buy more this year than they did last year!”
“Well, I know that’s true!”
“I’m just thinkin’ aloud, guys,” he says, downshifting. “Thanks for listening!”
“Hey, I’m down, you can say what you gotta say!”
“Thanks for hearing me out, everybody!”
Later on, he said, “hey, what’s your name?”
“I’m Nathan. Nathan.”
“Nathan. I’m Patu.”
“Patu yeah, I’m Samoan. You’re a great bus driver great guy.”
“Thank you. It’s always good to see you!”
“Have a good night! And–” forget political correctness for now, as we holler at each other in unison–”Merry Christmas!”
Later that night, an elderly Jamaican regular looked at me askance after I had diplomatically said “happy holidays.”
“I define my holidays,” he said. Dramatic Pause. Then: “Merry Christmas!”
Okay then! “Merry Christmas!”
I suppose it’s similar to how I feel about the term Caucasian. The etymology derives from the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, with specific reference to the 18th-century populations which lived on the southern slopes. Neither I, nor my father nor any of his ancestors have ever had anything to with the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. I guess I prefer the non-PC “half-white” or “non-white” or yes, “mixed-race,” or the tentatively canonized “hapa.” Or we could all just settle for “Muggle.”
The Metro Neighborhood: Scott from The Northwest Urbanist reflects upon a recent studio project for an area of Downtown Seattle owned by the University of Washington and one way in which it could be redeveloped.
Bellevue is in the process of updating their 2009 Pedestrian-Bicycle Plan with some new sweet projects. However, there should be some major policy changes as to how Bellevue addresses basic bike infrastructure projects. Here are just a few ideas that could go a long way to make biking better.
1. Buy some green paint
Green paint serves to indicate the priority of vulnerable users at conflict points between bicyclists and motorists. These are particularly useful at intersections, driveways, and lane merges (a very common feature of Bellevue’s many right-turn only lanes) across bike lanes. When motorists see green paint, they tend to be more aware of bicycles and look out for them. Many conflict areas exist in Bellevue, and they could be made safer with some green paint.
Green paint also serves to create bike boxes at intersections. Bike boxes are staging areas for bicyclists, and allows them to be more visible to vehicular traffic. Bicyclists also get a headstart at light cycles, improving their safety. Bellevue’s first bike box was recently installed at NE 8th St and 112th Ave NE. The City is now planning one more at Main Street and 108th Ave NE.
2. Get a good steep hill bike policy
Bellevue has many hills, perhaps even more than Seattle. This means that downhill bicyclists can go fast while cycling uphill tends to be very slow. When going down hills as fast as motorists, bicyclists are safer if they take the lane and don’t allow any cars to pass them. Sharrows in the center of the lane are best to direct cyclists to a safe position.
However, since bicyclists tend to go much slower than cars when going uphill, it can be annoying to drivers to still have bicyclists in the general purpose lane. In those situations, it is less stressful for both bicyclists and drivers if an uphill bike climbing lane is provided. Uphill bike climbing lanes can be wider than regular bike lanes to allow bikes ample movement when out-of-the-saddle or passing other bicyclists.
On many Bellevue streets, bike lanes are provided both up and down hills. It would be safer to get rid of downhill bike lanes on steep streets and use that space to separate and widen the uphill bike lane.
3. Provide sharrows where bike lanes can’t fit or bikes need to take the lane
Bellevue is notorious for having drivers that don’t understand bikes must sometimes take the lane, or place themselves at a safe distance from parked cars. Sharrows warn drivers about bicycles and indicate that they should be taking the lane. Sharrows also direct cyclists to the correct place on the street.
On streets without bike lanes, center refuge islands often create narrow lanes (less than 11 feet) that do not allow bikes and cars to pass safely. However, some drivers still try to pass cyclists if they stay too close to the curb. Using sharrows in these cases will help indicate to bicyclists that they must take the lane. This will make a safer street for all while reducing collisions or near-collisions.
4. Turn bike lanes into cycle tracks
Since Bellevue does not have on-street parking on arterials, bike lanes generally extend all the way out to the curb on either side of the street. Re-striping the same bike lanes on one side of the street with a buffer–gained from reducing lane widths from the standard 11 feet to 10 feet–reduces speed and better protects bicyclists. This also makes riding in the bike lanes much more attractive.
Center planting medians can be an obstacle to this on several streets, but as streets are repaved it will become natural to shift them to create protected bike lanes.
5. Create a Safe Routes to School program
Bellevue has one of the only large school districts in Washington that does not have a Safe Routes to School program. Such a program would teach students how to bike safely to places–like school while young drivers would learn how to behave around bicyclists. The program could also be used to issue mini-grants for better bike infrastructure like bike shelters or curb bulbs. Having more students bike would be beneficial to Bellevue by cutting down congestion and improving student health.
6. Work on driver education
Since bikes were not very common on Bellevue streets until recently, many drivers still do not know how to behave with bicyclists. And, new drivers are not even being taught about how to interact with them. Being a high school student, I talk to many people taking driver’s education course who complain about not being told about bikes. Few people have–or will–an understanding about how the right turn and stop signals are done with the left hand, for instance.
Many drivers also commit faults without being aware of them, such as passing cyclists too close, overtaking bikes right before a traffic signal, or drifting into the bike lane unconsciously. Better driver education could have major positive impacts on how drivers and cyclists interact.
7. Tie bike facilities into a network
Bellevue has many great pieces of infrastructure, but too many are not continuous and thus do not provide an easy-to-use network. Bike lanes end abruptly and later pick up, or trails have no signage to other streets. Connecting bike facilities together and signing them appropriately will get Bellevue truly useful bike infrastructure, rather than bike lanes that were built as street overlays happened.
The non-existing connection between the future 116th Ave NE bike lanes and the bike trail on the NE 12th St overpass comes to mind as a real opportunity.
8. Use neighboorhood greenways as bike routes
As a suburb, Bellevue does not have Seattle’s great street grid that allows for easy travel though low-traffic streets, known as Neighborhood Greenways. Streets are often disconnected and deadended. However, many low-traffic streets still exist, and they should be made more comfortable for cyclists. 108th Ave NE outside of Downtown Bellevue, the Lake Hills Greenway east of 164th Ave NE or the Kelsey Creek Greenway (between 128th Ave NE and 132nd Ave NE) in Wilburton are examples.
Other deadends can be connected using short trails that restrict car travel while allowing bikes and pedestrians through.
9. Build protected bike lanes Downtown
Downtown Bellevue is a major job, retail, and residential center. It makes sense that this is one of the top destinations for bicyclists in the city. While bike access to Downtown is generally good, no bike infrastructure is actually provided in Downton. The last-mile of many bike trips should be just as protected as the rest of the trip. Bellevue should build a network of two-way protected bike lanes in Downtown to accommodate bicyclists in addition to cars. The City should 108th Ave NE between Main St and 12th St NE, and 12th St NE from 108th Ave NE to 112th Ave NE, top priorities. A connection from 12th St NE would integrate well with the existing bike facility across I-405.
Over time, it would be optimal to see north-south cycle tracks on Bellevue Way, 108th Ave NE/SE and 112th Ave NE (north of NE 6th St) and east-west protected bike lanes on NE 12th St, NE 6th St and Main St.
10. Expand the multi-use, off-street trail network
Bellevue currently has two major off-street trail projects. The first is the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway. The City plans to extend the I-90 trail all the way from its current end in Factoria to the city limit with Issaquah at Lakemont Boulevard. The second one is the north-sound Eastside Rail corridor. This new trail will link Bellevue with Kirkland and Renton. Both projects would be beneficial to biking, but multi-use trails can do more than just this.
Several streets in Bellevue have both bike lanes and sidewalks. However, both are sparsely used in some places. These could be converted to wide, multi-use trails on one side of the street, separared by a planted (generally trees) buffer from traffic. Such trails would be a win-win-win situation, as it would provide separation for bikes and pedestrians, and make the street safer by reducing crossing width and speeding (though trees), as well as putting all the bikes and pedestrians in one spot.
Lucky number 11: Convert shoulders to bike lanes
The only difference between shoulders and bike lanes is that cars are allowed to be parked in shoulders, but not in bike lanes. On many streets in Bellevue, shoulders exist but are not labeled as bike lanes. Since cars do not regularly park on many of those arterials, this does not pose a problem, except when a car does decide to park in the shoulder. This forces the bikes into traffic without a safe transition between the shoulder and the travel lane. Designating shoulders as bike lanes, especially on streets where they are narrow or on hills, would make a good, cheap bike safety improvement.
We hope that the holidays are finding you well, especially on this Christmas Day. Wherever you are, we hope that you are enjoying time with family, friends, partners, or loved ones. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this little part of the world. We live in an amazing region with plenty of opportunity to experience diverse cultures, arts, entertainment, and more. The Seattle PI has a great article of 51 Seattle Christmas traditions. We wanted to share some wonderful photos that we captured of Seattle over this holiday season, so check those out below.
He came up to me at 135th, scabrous and gristled. This was last Christmas Eve, on the 358.
“You give a good ride, man.”
“Well, thanks, man. You got plans for the holiday?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna get off here, go over to KFC.”
“Oh, right on.”
“Yeah, gonna grab some dinner for my girlfriend. We’re gonna stay in tonight, watch some TV.”
“Sounds good to me, chance to relax. ‘What it’s all about, right?”
What I felt was not pity but admiration. He existed outside of all the shame, the hunger for status that drives so many of us, leading us to places of inadequacy and judgment, washing away the awareness of what’s truly important. I daresay his Christmas Eve was, in its barren simplicity, likely more stress-free than any number of his fellow Seattlelites.