Many properties at the edge of the Fremont Urban Village were mistakenly upzoned to LR3. The unique geography of these sites (steep slopes) literally separate them from the urban village, but instead of creating appropriate designs or investing a bit more money to properly orient these projects towards the arterials of the urban village, developers are deciding to save a little money and create nihilistic designs that rely on dead-end alleys and one-way streets to shoulder the burden of traffic to and from these sites.
If this project and others to come are not required to route vehicular traffic via Fremont Ave N or 39th St N, then hundreds of cars will soon be coming and going down a dead-end traffic peninsula that is already overcrowded – destroying the livability of this neighborhood for everyone.
We are not going to let this happen without a fight, but we need your support. Legal bills are expensive and the developers we’re dealing with seem like they would rather spend money on lawyers than on well designed developments that increase the richness of the neighborhoods we love.
Please consider getting involved and also donating. We are *not* a NIMBY organization. We believe in progress and want to welcome greater density to our city and to our neighborhood. But we cannot sacrifice liveability on the altar of developer profits.
3959 Fremont Ave N – Offender #1
Lanz Fremont is a 32 unit microhousing complex design being proposed for construction at a site comprised of the addresses 3959 Fremont Ave N. and 3965 Fremont Ave N.
The developers of this proposed design want to put the only entrance to this high density complex on the 10′ wide unnamed dead-end alley.
All vehicular traffic servicing the site would need to come through a low density single family zoned neighborhood, and down a narrow dead-end alley. This is not reasonable.
Map of proposed site:
Put the Entrance on Fremont:
The developers of the site could terrace into the slope, and fully front the building to Fremont, thus allowing vehicular and foot traffic to directly access the building from Fremont.
Presumably, this was the intent of the Seattle City Planner who decided, sometime around 2010, that this location should be rezoned from L1 to L2 Urban Village. The intrepid city planner probably looked at a map, saw that these properties were adjacent to Fremont Ave and thought “Hey, this is an arterial street that can provide vehicular access to these properties so let’s rezone this to L2”. This decision appears to have overlooked the presence of the steep slope from Fremont Ave (not apparent on a two dimensional map), and disregards the thorough analysis that was previously performed in determining that this location should be indeed zoned L1.
However, if the city planning department calculus determined that this location should be L2 Urban Village, because it can be accessed by the Fremont Ave arterial, then they should require that the building design is actually accessed from Fremont Ave and not by a narrow alley going through a dead-end low density neighborhood.
There are other examples of buildings on the 39th to 40th block of Fremont Ave that are successfully terraced in to the slope. This is not a wimpy slope. This is dense glacial till. This is one of the hardest substrates that can comprise a slope. Any arguments that are made suggesting this critical slope is in anyway unstable are patently false. The geological stability of this slope has been well documented. A well designed building terraced in to the slope, to provide direct access from Fremont Ave, would be more stable than a high density building plopped at the top of the slope. The condominium building at 39th and Fremont Ave, and the quadplex at 40th and Fremont Ave are good examples of other buildings on the same block that were successfully terraced in to the slope. The developers of this site can be required to do the same.
The developers of this proposed project have argued that SDOT (Seattle Dept of Transportation), the agency that owns and controls the slope, will not allow them to terrace in to it. Therefore, they have to put the entrance on the alley. However, SDOT has given dispensation for other properties on this same block to terrace in to slope, so presumably SDOT dispensation can be more strongly pursued for this site as well. It is likely that the developers are trying to avoid the issue of placing the entrance to the building on Fremont Ave in order to avoid the costs associated with both terracing in to the slope, as well as to providing street level disability access to Fremont Ave as required by the Fair Housing Act.
If SDOT insists that the developers cannot cut in to the slope, regardless of the fact that a property to the south and the north on the same block were allowed to cut in to the slope, then this location should not have been zoned L2. This would imply that two different agencies in the City of Seattle are making decisions that create a contradiction. A proverbial example of the Left Hand not knowing what the Right Hand is doing, and thus each is making decisions at odds with the other. This neighborhood should not have to accept construction of a building completely unsuitable for the location due to poor city planning and breakdown in inter-agency communication.
Design a Building Appropriate for the Location:
An alternative is for the developers to build townhomes with off-street parking in the back, or to sell the property to someone else who could build townhomes. A lower density townhomes design that fit the L1 nature of the location would be a good choice.
Townhomes would generate far less vehicular traffic going through our low density neighborhood. The street level access of L1 townhomes are also less demanding than that of a multi-unit apartment building. A simple sturdy staircase could be constructed from Fremont Ave to the front of townhomes in a manner similar to the townhomes that were recently constructed on the 40th to 41st block of Fremont Ave.
Our neighbor, architect Gordon Lagerquist, has offered a quality townhomes design for the location, free of charge, to the developers. Alternatively, the properties could be sold to a buyer that would like to develop townhomes. We have had communications with a real estate broker experienced in facilitating land swaps and transfers of properties to developers with design objectives more suited to the location. This broker is confident that he can find a developer with design objectives that fit this location, as well as find a site for Lanz that is more suitable for a microhousing development. Either of these scenarios would provide a good solution.
Safety and Livability Impacts of Proposed Project:
- Vehicular traffic danger in alley.
- Vehicular traffic danger to elementary school children walking to and from school.
- Lack of access for emergency medical and fire.
- Lack of access to Fremont Ave for disabled residents unable to walk stairs.
- Parking in single family neighborhood already at capacity.
- Displaces residences sized for families with elementary age school children across the street from an elementary school.