Ballard development to be built inches from neighbor’s home

ballard60thstThe Ballard development situation is gaining coverage from major local media outlets including KOMO, Seattle PI and Curbed. The reports focus on local couple Laurette and Leroy Simmons who are dealing with a development next to their own a property on NW 60th St.

According to the KOMO report, Laureate and Leroy retired to NW 60th St six years ago, purchasing a home that had recently been renovated. They moved in with Leroy’s mother and further updated the house with a third floor deck and a tree house for the grandchildren in the backyard.

The family, who are reportedly friendly with their neighbors, are about to become close in all senses of the word when a developer constructs four rowhouses next to their home. According to plans filed with the Department of Planning and Development, the houses could be built as close as 2.5 feet way from the Simmons’s home with the Simmons’ gutter 10-12 inches from their neighbors’ wall.

“I don’t understand how they can build a house 10 inches away. Certainly they have to be on our property to do that,” Laurette told KOMO news. “We’re very disappointed in the fact that the city is going to allow us to happen. They’re just cheating us.”

As we have seen with many of the new developments in Ballard, the change in city regulations currently allows developers to build right on the property line. Many locals have expressed their opposition to the current city regulations including the creators of www.livableballard.org who created a petition to oppose the “recent, drastic, and developer-led changes to our neighborhood.”

“You’re starting to see townhomes, apartments, rowhouses go in, in areas ripe enough for development,” Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development, told KOMO. “The row house was sort-of a new development type for Seattle, but something that’s very tradtitional in other areas of the country, like New York, Brooklyn, San Francisco.”

As for the Simmons family, they have significant concern that the development will not only impact their lives during construction but as the rowhouses need maintenance over the years. “There’s no chance of them being able to maintain it once it’s built,” Leroy told KOMO.

“We’re not against density. We understand we live in a very desirable area,” Laurette told KOMO, “but to build a house so close to another house which does not allow either one of them to be maintained – how can that possibly happen?”

Sadly, this situation is becoming all too common in Ballard. If you have a story about a development close to your home email us at tips@myballard.com.

Photo courtesy of KOMO News.

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Jimmy
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Jimmy

Quickly install a fence right on your property line so it is physically impossible for them to do construction. That should slow down a bit I think.

Keith
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Keith

Developer built within three feet of my property line. they put the fence on the property line.

Sam
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Sam

Because …developers!

More environmentalist greenwashing.

Carla Madrigal
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Carla Madrigal

It’s a pretty big stretch to compare what’s going on in Ballard with what went on in San Francisco 100 plus years ago. Some individuals will make the most ludicrous claims to justify their irresponsbile and destructive behavior.

Eric
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Eric

This is a consequence of some changes to the zoning code a few years ago. Previously, the code required buildings to be five feet from the side lot line, and the result was a bunch of those townhome “four-packs” that have popped up all over the place. A lot of people complained that those were ugly, because the visual focus was often the driveway, and the units often didn’t even have front doors facing the street. In response to that feedback, the city council added a new “rowhouse” option that allows developers to build all the way to the side lot line, so long as every unit directly faces the street and isn’t behind another unit. The idea was to encourage developments similar to the well-liked rows of connected houses that are found in other cities (like San Francisco). Rowhouses aren’t required for new construction. The townhome four-packs are still legal to build, but the developer is given a few more square feet of floor space to work with if they opt for a rowhouse instead. The incentive seems to have worked in this case. I would like to point out that the Simmons family themselves own a house that… Read more »

Molly
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Molly

We have two townhouses that were built on the back half of our lot before we bought our house. Luckily they are about 8-10 feet behind our house, so we still have some space. But we did just find that their power line easement runs super close to our house – which required a change in our basement remodel plans (can’t dig a deeper window well for an egress with it in the way). Super annoying.

I would be very frustrated if these townhouses were any closer to us – they already dwarf us!

Don Milgate
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Don Milgate

I think it’s time for some public action on curtailing development in Ballard.

Chris
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Chris

Rowhouse development in Ballard is exciting and should be encouraged….much better than the “fourpacks” referred to above.

I find it strange that people that own property feel they are also entitled to dictate the type of houseing is developed on the property next to theirs. Development that occurs outside of your property is determined at the larger city level–and I think Ballard/Seattle will certainy benefit from increased density.

Increased density will help support more walkable business districts and the overall vibrancy of our neighborhoods. This is the essence of city living compared to life in the suburbs. If you don’t want to live close to your neighbors, perhaps the suburbs are more in sync with what you’re looking for?

Chris
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Chris

It’s a double-edged sword. If you limit development you limit the housing supply. Limit the housing supply and housing prices will go up and then the only people who will be able to live here are people who have been here for decades and people with tons of money. That’s pretty much what happened in SF. I’m sure the people who have been here for decades would be happy with that but it’s not so good for the overall health of the city.

All that said, the rules should be modified so that you can’t build right up to the line if doing so doesn’t allow for room to properly maintain the house next door. I’d also be concerned about emergency egress issues. Blocking the only window in a room could mean blocking the only means of escape. Building to the line is fine if you’re next to a similar sized high density building or a single family home that has no windows on that side but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here.

B Michael
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B Michael

@Keith — they put a fence on the property line? Where else would you put a fence?

As a new Ballard resident I am reminded of Robert Frost : good fences make good neighbors

john
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john

These developers and the city planners work hand in hand and do what they want to maximize profits with little concern for the community until that community rises up to be heard!! Lets make some noise!!! Ballard is being destroyed with all kinds of new construction that have varying degrees of negative effects, from lack of parking, building to close to neighbors, to apodements!! etc

shawn
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shawn

whiners. your house is built on the property line, why shouldn’t your neighbors build on the property line too?

you could always move to bellevue.

ProgressiveBallard
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ProgressiveBallard

When the siding on this brand new building fails in 3 years, how is it going to be replaced considering there likely isn’t 10 inch deep scaffolding out there, let alone a construction worker?

plasticbags
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plasticbags

I think that the emergency egress issue a couple of you have brought up is a valid concern. You have to be able to get out of a bedroom window. I don’t know if the code reflects that or not but if you are the one living in the house you should care.

Existing houses can’t be lifted and moved away from the property line. So it only makes sense that new construction be built in a way that does not prevent the occupants of either home to exit from their windows. It makes a lot more sense the measure that in a distance from the existing structure rather than a distance from the property line.

Amy O
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Amy O

Why isn’t it possible for the developer to recoup their investment for this project by building 3 houses instead of 4? A little more breathing space for everyone. Good Karma.

junior
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junior

That is an interesting observation, plastic bags.
I have never before heard the argument that the rowhouses built on the property-line would compromise a required egress for a neighboring single-family house (assuming they don’t put windows on the sides of these rowhouses).

I suspect that since single-family houses are required to be 5′ from the side line, that the burden lies with them to maintain egress. Although if the city permitted this ‘remodel’, perhaps they would make the new rowhouses accommodate a path of egress to any neighboring windows.
Not to mention natural light or ventilation requirements.

35th and Thistle
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35th and Thistle

More dense infill development is good. It keeps people from paving wetlands in the suburbs for McMansions, puts people where we already have mass transit and other infrastructure, and in the aggregate increases the housing supply for younger and relatively less well off buyers. Seattle has too much single family zoning, which prices out younger and less well off home buyers in favor of people who bought years ago.

Sam
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Sam

“If you don’t want to live close to your neighbors, perhaps the suburbs are more in sync with what you’re looking for?”

If you want to live like sardines, perhaps NYC would be more in sync with what you’re looking for?

Sam
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Sam

Here come the urbanists, selling their snake oil, developer promoted, greenwashing BS.

How call you tell an urbanist is lying?

His lips are moving.

Joe Ballard
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Joe Ballard

Note that the project architect is a member of the Seattle Planning Commission, so that can’t hurt when projects like this need city permits.

Ballardog
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Ballardog

It’s a quality of life and a property rights issue. The lifestyle parameters of the community should be set by the people already existing in that community. Unfortunately there is no representation. City council members have no geographical accountability and too often pander to special interest. Charter 19 which separates council members via districts is a partial solution.

Sam
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Sam

@21 Only two more years and we’ll actually have a local rep on the city council, no more downtown, monied, greenwashing fools in the pockets of developers telling us ‘it’s good for the environment’.

Anon
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Anon

@9 That’s what we’ve been told for years, but it’s only gotten more expensive as more development comes in. But hey, if you believe that more development means lower prices, I have a monorail to sell you.

Shilshole Crabber
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Shilshole Crabber

Truly there is a difference between smart density and density simply for the sake of density. My understanding is that the Ballard neighborhood has easily met its density quotas under the GMA. Given that, I wish the city could be thoughtful about what’s now going into our neighborhood.

I’m anxious to see if the new city council representation system changes things. Depends on who our rep is.

Kylek
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Kylek

This is the essential conflict of a neighborhood in transition. Only small sections of Seattle are zoned for multi family use so they are in high demand. Do we attempt to placate semi-suburban forms which tend to lead to poorly realized outcomes like the tall skinnies and design by zoning townhouses from the last boom? Or do we move towards forms that work well in urban areas (like real row houses) but accelerate the discomfort of the remaining SFH owners? I am obviously in favor of the latter. The areas that were zoned LR1-3 should favor LR1-3 uses. Seattle is still very largely SFH only in its zoning.