Gawd Awful!

Not to be a negative nanny, or call attention to anything new, i.e. how awful Seattle townhouse development is, but I think it worth calling out those builders who are for the most part leaving nasty, long-lasting blemishes on Seattle’s built environment. This fine example is by Kohary Construction, Inc. You can see many more gawd awful examples of their work throughout the Ballard/Greenwood area. Go get ’em Kohary!

29 Responses to “Gawd Awful!”

  1. Knox

    It is a f*cking blight.

  2. Max

    That badly distorted photo makes it look worse than it is.

  3. MikeP

    MJH, the last two graphics you’ve posted have looked really distorted and illegible. I agree with your comment here, but since you are making an argument on aesthetic grounds, I think you could spend a little more time getting the pictures right.

  4. Max

    Amen, you can make anything look bad with a crappy image.

  5. johna

    Unfortunately, in this case it actually looks worse at the correct aspect ratio.

  6. Administrator

    Image fixed, wordpress code crunches large images.

  7. Hmmm...

    Is it uglier than melting icecaps and dying children?

    Yes, it would be good to improve the aesthetics of bad development, but we need a lot more density in this town (a LOT more) if we’re going to get to the population numbers it takes to get people out of their cars and drive down CO2.

    I’d rather have eight of these in an ethical city than one charming old bungalow in a city responsible for destroying the planet.

    Though if we lived in a place with decent government, that trade between density and quality wouldn’t be needed at all…

  8. larubbio

    I think you are confused. The sign clearly says these are ‘deluxe’ townhomes.

  9. ktstine

    i will take any modern townhouse over these faux craftsmans. the answer to not building these is for people not to buy them.

  10. chris

    damn fine homes

    8415A doesn’t even have a dead bolt on the door

  11. jbb

    ktstine- agreed, but unfortunately, the answer to people not buying them is to provide affordable alternatives. For better or worse, the much-maligned townhouse is the most affordable housing type in Seattle right now (you can get a cheaper condo, but not on a $/sqft basis and not after fees).

    The more architecty places — I’m looking at you PB — come with a pretty serious premium, and I’m not convinced they are any more livable.

  12. mike

    PB’s projects aren’t any more liveable, and the finishes/appliances for the pricepoint are usually way off.

  13. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    jbb, townhomes may be the most affordable option for buying in Seattle, they’re certainly not the most affordable housing type since you can rent for well under $2026/mo. I know buying has been the American Dream and all, but ownership rates are lower in much of the world, and that’s not even getting into the troublesome home loan debt problems.

    (You might also be interested in the Fall 2008 homebuyers survey showing most buyers are interested in condos due to walkable locations and reduced utility costs–despite the smaller sq footage.)

  14. ktstine

    jbb, i see your point. and i know a lot of folks that relish the small plot of townhome land behind their unit after having lived in an apartment or condo. (and yes, i also know a lot of people who have no interest in maintaining land where they live.)

    i guess i wish that there were more options in the “modern town home category” that weren’t necessarily the price point that PB offers (i.e. under 300k, which i know is still ridiculously unaffordable to most Seattlelites!)

    more options, more options…

  15. dang

    Better options, better options. Even if the price of housing were made more affordable or the aesthetics were to improve or people decided en masse to settle for smaller units, if housing is still planned around the car, if it is still built in environments that are no more walkable than they started out being, it will not matter how densely they are built nor how livable their interiors may be. It’s not just that these townhouses are bad, its also their setting, the way they relate (or don’t) to the street and the surrounding community.

  16. Lance

    not to mention their website mentions nothing of sustainable construction– not to mention, if something -looks- cheap, it probably is. these things will be in shambles in less than 20 years.

  17. Lance

    not to mention their website mentions nothing of sustainable construction– also, if something -looks- cheap, it probably is. these things will be in shambles in less than 20 years.

  18. SYC

    This is my neighborhood, my bus stop actually, and I have to say that these are the ugliest townhouses in Greenwood (maybe even the city). They are not only unsightly, they are also EMPTY! They have been on the market for a while (I want to say nearing a year).

  19. phil

    No HOA, so you can expect a certain percentage of these to not be maintained. As units start to look run down, you can expect the prices of all the units to suffer accordingly.

    FYI: I’ve been on the HOA board of a 50 unit townhome development. It was hard enough to get those folks to spend money we had already put aside.

  20. Paul Kuger

    Look, Ducks. Shoot!

  21. Kathryn

    I actually prefer row houses to the tandem junk. Building quality and landscaping is yet another issue. Those will look fine in a few years after some trees grow up in the parking strip.

    Here is a thought about how people can be useful. Take a look at the proposed multifamily code. Those of you who are pro-deveopment and who live in a Single Family neighborhood, especially if you are in an Urban Village, do us all a favor and tell us how you will do the right thing and get your area upzoned. And which of the choices provided will you go for?

    This is kind of a trick question and a throwing down of the gauntlet. The trick question is that there should be no Single Family inside an Urban Village. The fact that is, means either the work needs to be done by none other than you as proponents or the Urban Village boundaries need to be redrawn.

    The gauntlet is to really look at the code and figure out where the zoning is to allow us to dense up? Is LDT really Duplex-Triplex in the terms that largely non Urban Village SF areas can handle? Can you take the L3-L4 specs and make them happen in the SF zones inside the Urban Village? What would you change?

  22. dang

    Kathryn – I couldn’t agree more with your throwing down the gauntlet, but that said I also could not disagree with you more in your first couple of sentences… and that makes me question what is deemed an acceptable increase in density? I think there are real misunderstandings regarding density, both from a conservation of lifestyle to congestion and crowding to preservation of views and trees, et al. Projects like the one highlighted in this post do not do density advocates any favors and simply saying, “Yea, but in a couple of years when the trees grow in…” is not going to make this project better, nor will it sway density opponents, nor will it convince density proponents who can’t bring themselves to supporting a project in their own neighborhood. And here’s why… increasing density is not simply about housing more people, more efficiently. It’s also about reconsidering all the spaces associated with our housing, our work, our lives… it all needs to be reconsidered and done in a thoughtful meaningfully efficient manner. So the issue that I have with the project highlighted in this post is precisely its attitude toward density; it houses people (somewhat) densely and nothing more.

    That I find it ugly is a matter of personal preference, but what is really unforgivable to me is that the project ignores its relationship to the street (or actually it acknowledges it through the use of a wall?), the surrounding neighborhood, the bus stop (and opps for its residents to get to it with some ease) and even the experience to be had by the future residents (no wonder it is still empty?). If it did these things well, it could be a stuccoed, shingle-style, English Tudor-ized craftsman and I would be happier. I may not want to live there, but again, personal preferences.

    For me, the issue at the moment is less about aesthetics, because we aren’t getting the most fundamental of issues right. What we are building now is going to be with us for the next 50+ years. What we build now is also going to influence how we build for years, not aesthetically, but as a development model of what is an acceptable project, an acceptable relationship to the street, an acceptable treatment of the interface with the public realm, an acceptable amount of natural light and ventilation, etc, etc

    Back to the gauntlet. I believe by being within the boundaries of an UV, the SFDs are next in line to be up-zoned. As you point out, they aren’t currently, and I am speculating here, but I would think that this has something to do with focusing development and managing growth. Not that I am convinced that this is something the City has succeeded in doing, but up-zoning an entire neighborhood would disperse growth throughout the UV boundaries. Our zoning and growth should be viewed as incremental, and we are just taking our first steps.

    Currently, a lot of the potential for growth occurs along hyper dense, mixed-use corridors. This has succeeded in generating a lot of mixed use structures over the last 10 years, but there hasn’t been nearly enough residential density in very close, walkable proximity, and I believe this is what you are getting at? Typically the mixed-use corridors are surrounded by low-rise zoning, which in theory allows for relatively dense and modestly scaled development, but this hasn’t happened to the extent that a lot of density proponents would like.

    Just broadening the areas in low-rise zones won’t do the trick. I think the lack of development in this intermediate zone has to do with a couple of key factors: its much messier from a design and community review standpoint (unless you go the 6-pack route); and at an intermediate scale, it is not nearly as easy or profitable to build. This is something that I think about a lot, typically as I walk into work passing by oodles of early 20th-century low-rise apartment buildings that would not be buildable under the current zoning code.

    Why? These are fabulous urban building blocks after all. But developed under today’s standards and with typical financing, their size/scale would require going through the design review process, adding time, additional fees and the element of the unknown. Parking requirements are also a huge deterrent, adding a lot of cost, time and complexity. Building setbacks play a big role too, requiring a building to stay further back from lot lines the higher it goes. And modulation requirements to a lesser extent, which would actually prevent you from building more than 5 rowhouses in a row (100′). There’s also open space requirements, which promote private open space within each development over public open space (i.e. parks). And of course clearances from overhead power lines. All these elements either add costs or diminish buildable areas, thereby dispersing costs across a lower yield. So addressing these issues are key unless, we are willing to settle for more six-packs in low-rise zones.

  23. bruce c. ewing

    Good Morning just thought i would let you know that i also had a problem with your blog coming up frozen also. Might be gremlins in the system.

  24. Chokuzuki

    I grew up in the Greenwood neighborhood. And I must say, I bad mouthed all the townhouses that poped-up throughout North Seattle, particularly in the past 10 years. Often was the case that a landmark I so was used to seeing had been demolished to make way for a townhouse.

    I traveled a thousand times in front of the tonwnhouses seen above. Never caring to see them. However, when I decided to buy a home, I happened to look at the building itself from the inside. I was surprised at the quality and nice interior. I did not buy this townhouse but I realize that from the outside they may not be as asthetic as some would care, particularly in front of a bus stop. The unites were very high-tech and exceeded City codes. High-efficient windows that concerve energy as well as keeping the noise out.

    Anybody that buys any of these units will hit a huge ROI in the future. Looking at the Car Wash immeditelly accross the street… a gonner by when the economy picks up… will find a great environment. And good riddins for those who hate townhomes… they are that much less out there competing for these excellent buys.

  25. Herman Shollenbarger


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