CHS: Meeting will discuss microhousing trend on Hill and the CD

Map of microhousing projects, from CHS (see full version below)

Opponents of aPodments on Capitol Hill and the Central District are looking forward to their opportunity to bend the ears of Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin and DPD head Diane Sugimura today (Monday). The meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. at the Cal Anderson Park Shelterhouse. Opponents will probably tell the city officials about the loss of buildings like the one at the corner of 13th Ave E and E Mercer in exchange for multi-story boarding house-style apartments that squeeze through zoning loopholes without the additional oversight other types of large multifamily projects endure.

We’ve documented those loopholes, mapped the projects underway around the Hill and taken you inside the small studios. We’ve introduced you to the community groups pushing back — and the developers who are pushing the trend forward. The Capitol Hill Community Council has come out in support of a moratorium until review requirements are strengthened. Conlin has said the City Council isn’t ready to take action. The conversation at Monday’s December session of the East District Council will likely include more of the same.

Despite the community groups and neighbors frustrated by the projects, planning and density advocates continue to voice support for allowing more nimble development of the boarding-house style projects. This Sightline Institute essay calls the projects “dormitories for grown-ups”

 The leading Cascadian example is the aPodment, a product of Calhoun Properties of Seattle. These units are rooming houses updated. Individual rooms are smaller than parking places — typically less than 150 square feet. Each is lightly furnished and has a microwave and a mini-fridge plus a petite bathroom. Off-street parking is minimal, and it’s rented separately, but the buildings have shared kitchens and laundry facilities. In 2011 and 2012, rent was commonly around $500 a month, including internet and all utilities. At under $17 a night, aPodments rent for roughly double what San Francisco rooming houses cost a century ago, adjusted for inflation, and aPodments have private bathrooms and partial kitchens.

The men behind Calhoun, Gary Mulhair and his son Dirk, are moving forward with another project that will replace the old home at Mercer and 13th. Along with partners, they purchased the property from the Salvation Army last February for $832,000. The demolition paperwork has started but no permits have been issued yet. If the project moves forward like the rest, by late 2013 or 2014, the site will be home to a 56-unit aPodment building.

Here’s an announcement about Monday’s meeting from the Reasonable Density Seattle group.

Hello Neighbors.

A reminder…

Monday, December 10 starting at 5:45pm.

The shelter house is located in the park north of Pine St and adjacent to the playing fields.

This is an important meeting if you are concerned about the proliferation of apodment type building projects in Seattle. Councilman Richard Conlin and Department of Planning and Development Director Diane Sugimura will be addressing the meeting and taking questions.

I believe this meeting is a first of its kind so please attend if you have concerns about these projects. Demonstrate that concern, show support and solidarity and learn more about this issue. A lot of effort has gone into creating this opportunity, the more concerned residents we can muster the more seriously City Council will take our concerns.

Tell or better, bring your friends and neighbors. Feel free to forward this email to others that may be interested.

Cal Anderson Park’s Shelter House is located at 1635 11th Avenue.

Thank you, we hope you can make it.

Happy Holidays!


Carl Winter

Reasonable Density Seattle

Here’s a map of some proposed and constructed microhousing projects:

10 thoughts on “CHS: Meeting will discuss microhousing trend on Hill and the CD

  1. Wow – can you imagine the impact on the sewer. Fifty-six adults (or more) worth of shit and piss from a property that was only supposed to be delivering waste from two adults and two kids. Has anyone figured out the impact??

  2. More than developers should be pushing forward. For all of the complaining about gentrification around here, where are the affordable housing advocates? aPodments provide an affordable option for single people. They’re bulldozing a single house or two and converting it to housing for dozens. That’s progress.

    Check out Sightline’s multi-part series on small housing, starting here.

  3. I looked at the articles written so far and am very disappointed that more people who actually LIVE in these are not included in the conversation. Oh there was one article that one had pictures of some messy rooms…. Way back when, young people shared the rent for houses and in some neighborhoods still do. I found sharing a house to be a great way to have some mutual support and community. I’d be interested to know what is developing with the shared kitchens, as that seems like the sort of setup aspired to in Coop housing. I’d also be interested to know the cost difference, if any, between the apodments and just sharing a large house or large apartment.

    • Looks like they’re around $600 a month (though range from $440 to $950).

      I’m seeing 3-br homes for rent at around $2000 on Craig’s List. So it’s a similar price to share a house, but it’s likely not in as great a location, and you’re sharing much more (aPodments have their own bathrooms, and mini-kitchen area with microwave and little fridge).

    • I rent a 4-bedroom, 1800 sqft house in the Central District for $1900 + all utilities. The rent for individual rooms ranges from $400-$750 a month all-inclusive. I wouldn’t be able to charge my housemates $500 for the size of room they’re offering, but the private bathroom is a big bonus.

  4. I think the land use question here is one of ‘uses’. What is effectively an apartment building as opposed to a one family home should be clear. There is irritation over ‘bending’ the code. However, those areas look to me to already permit apartment buildings anyway.

    Some may be irritated by apodments, but I am irritated that over and over again I see a duplex that had two lower or medium income large families get torn down and the lot pretty much covered with tall townhouses, but no net increase in people. Each townhouse is 2500 sqft, 2 master bedrooms, $500K and lucky if there is more than one person living in it. If we want to measure density, I think the number of bedrooms need to be counted so we know if we are doing any better.

    • Valid points KT. Townhouses, however, reflect the decreasing size of the american family and the choice to not have children, have fewer children, and have children later in life.

      I live in a town house complex where one broken down house was replaced by 8 townhouses. 4 of the units have single men or women. 1 has renting family of four. And three have “yuppie couples” (excepting that I am not young, but, my GF is.). Our unit sales prices over ten years have ranged from $225K in the early 2000s peaking at $495K a couple of years back. Now selling around $320K. Generally very affordable, three bedroom units, except for the three that sold in the peak, those folks are struggling to upright their finances. Mostly by the honest old fashioned method of paying the bank more than the morgage payment. One has considerred abandonning, but, for now has a solid renter paying the morgage.

      Town houses bring density, options for the new demographic, and will continue. We can’t determine family size with zoning requirments. Let the buyer decide/beware.

      • I hear you Grumbo. I think the townhouses could be configured better, with maybe more variety in spaces. The worst of the cookie cutter styles really could not support a family well. I do think that giving up a yard or building to the lot line and killing the trees next door should include structures that can support that variety of household sizes you note.

        I live in a townhouse with 2 bedrooms, but it is 1000 square feet. It’s almost too much space for me and still has a pretty good resale value. Other singles need that kind of option for buying something a bit more reasonably sized than 2500 sq ft or configured so they at least can rent out a couple of spare bedrooms.

        Of course, it’s all about what the market will ‘bear’. :)