It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

[ Rendering of proposed mixed-use project at 6010 Phinney Ave, courtesy Kilburn Architects ]

If you’re like me, you might look at the rendering above and think, well, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s the kind of medium-scale mixed-use building that’s perfectly appropriate along an arterial in one of Seattle’s urban villages.  But apparently there are a whole lot of folks up in Phinney Ridge that aren’t like me.  Check out this account of the project’s Design Review Board meeting last February.  It’s as if the building was to house an anthrax lab.  This blog has prattled on about density NIMBYs too much already, so suffice it to say that pretty much every classic density NIMBY objection was raised.

Designed by Kilburn Architects, the 19-unit, 4-story project will come before the DRB again on September 14.   Sited on a parcel about 100 feet square, this is not an outrageously large building.  Just across the street on Phinney the green eyebrow-laden Fini condos is bigger, and also has a gaping garage entry that leaves an unfriendly hole in the streetscape on Phinney (image here, scroll down).

Part of the angst over four-story buildings along this length of Phinney is due to the fact that the 40-foot zones back right up against single-family zones half a block off Phinney on either side.  It’s the skinniest urban village in Seattle, and there’s no space to transition the zoning.  Apparently the City decided that the public benefits of creating an urban village outweigh the negative impact on a relatively small number of single-family home owners.  The right decision, in my view.

The proposed building will include 2700 sf of street-level commercial split into two spaces, each of which are less than the 1500 sf trigger for off-street parking requirements.  The 23 stalls of below-grade parking provide a residential parking ratio of 1.2, just above the City’s minimum requirement of 1.15 for multifamily buildings with between 11 and 30 units.  It’s a reasonable amount of parking, yet it’s inevitable that the loudest complaint about the project will be concerning the impact it might have on surrounding street parking.

The project will displace several small independent businesses in the existing one story building, another sore point with some of the neighbors, and indeed, one of the most vexing problems associated with redevelopment.  Small independent businesses are the soul of a good neighborhood, but I have yet to hear of a workable policy mechanism to prevent this kind of displacement.  Thriving cities must evolve, and perhaps this is simply an unavoidable bad that comes with the good.  And probably sooner than we think, buildings like Fini will be providing the low-rent retail spaces of future.