The public speaks up about Urness House

It was standing room only in the Ballard High School Library on Monday evening for back-to-back meetings about the Nyer Urness House. Because of the public interest in the 80-unit low-income housing project for homeless men and women slated for 1753 NW 56th St, the Department of Planning and Development decided to hold an environmental review meeting. This is an unusual move for this type of project Lisa Rutzick, the project manager with the city, told the 100 plus people.

The meeting kicked off about 15 minutes behind schedule with Rick Friedhoff, the executive director of the Compass Housing Alliance (formerly Compass Center), explaining what the Urness House is and why this location works for them. “Ballard was selected because it is a residential community that is walkable. It has many amenities from grocery stores to drug stores and movie houses, coffee shops.” Friedhoff told the group. “Lots of amenities for people to enjoy.” He said the Compass Center bought the property in 2008, tore down the eyesore that was known to cause problems in the neighborhood, and began planning the development. The building will be staffed with a concierge 24 hours a day with security cameras on the outside. It will have two stories of offices used by support services to help the homeless.

During their planning phase, Compass Housing Allisance presented information to the Ballard District Council and spoke with other community members about their project, Friedhoff said. “Frankly we weren’t real aware that there was opposition,” he confessed, until design review began earlier this year.

At Monday’s meeting, three dozen people spoke during the public comment period. Although the applause seemed to be split evenly for speakers in favor of the project and against the project, the majority of the speakers that went on public record were for it. Several of the speakers just wanted more answers before making their decision.

The first speaker recalled what Friedhoff had told the group about the Urness House being in close proximity to stores. “A shopping area or a shoplifting area?” he asked, questioning the claim by Compass Housing Authority that they have not seen crime rates go up around other low-income housing properties. One of the final speakers brought a list of 911 calls made to the Compass Housing Authority’s downtown location. He said there were 30 calls last year from assault to suicide. “Protection is my big concern,” he told the group.

Another speaker who is in favor of the project said that people’s negative response to the project is because of prejudices. She referenced previous concerns about property values said, “If all you can think about is the value of your home, you need to reevaluate your values.” Another supporter of the project said, “I thoroughly welcome this house to our community,” a sentiment that was echoed in many of the public comments.

The meeting wrapped up late, causing the Design Review meeting to start late.

During the Design Review meeting, Weinstein A|U presented their proposal to the Design Review Board. The design includes a blue building with orange accents, two garage doors in the back alley on the south side of the building, bare walls on either side except for Virginia Creeper and some windows/balconies in the middle and landscaping out front. It will also have a green roof for residents to enjoy. There will be a guardrail up around the deck so people can’t easily walk to the edge of the building.

A look at the proposed parking garage for Urness House

Public concerns ranged from the number of parking spaces (12 spots), the access down the alley for deliveries and the massing.

In the end, the board gave the Urness House the green light on the design with a few recommendations and approval for four departures (see page 36 of presentation). The board recommends that the design include a seat wall out front, bicycle spots out front and use Urnes style, a Scandinavian textile art, an audience member explained, somewhere in the front lobby. (See entire .pdf design presentation here.)

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Mrs. Murphey
Guest
Mrs. Murphey

Urnes style is usually expressed in carving or metalwork of some fashion. I would like to see examples of Scandanavian textile art.

robert
Member
robert

asdfghj-

I’m sick and tired of your hateful-than-thou words.

Boardbrown
Member
Boardbrown

It’s going to be a great building!

edot
Guest
edot

rather annoying. keep your ugly goldbricking asses out of my beach community.

SomeName
Guest
SomeName

Well last night’s meeting has done what nothing else over the last half- century has been able to do. In spite of a lifelong passionate commitment and years of hard work and intense involvement in progressive politics from the local to national level.

That meeting turned me from a strong, committed progressive Democrat into a Republican.

Behind all my political involvement, I’ve always assumed, throughout my long life, that people were basically good, and that most folks had enough common sense to make the right decisions.

Not any more.

Maybe it’s the TV, maybe it’s something in the water, I dunno. But there is just way too much stoopid out there.

I’m done. Surely you won’t miss me. As far as I’m concerned, Ballard can go to hell – it’s making great progress, and I’m not going to bother standing in the way any more. Enjoy the dystopia you’re making for yourselves.

Name
Guest
Name

Sounds great! Looks like most of the negative feelings in Ballard were isolated to a few annonymous posters here, who never showed up. As usual!

The person is right. If all you care about is property values, look at your own values.

Another win for the good guys! :)

Can’t wait to see it built!

Name
Guest
Name

“The board recommends that the design include a seat wall out front, bicycle spots out front”

Sounds great. This way the residents will have sidewalk seating to interact with the community.

That way people can see first hand they are not the monsters some claim. It will do them some good.Why should the resturants be the only ones with sidewalk seating? Ballard belongs to us all, rich and poor.

Bark more, wag less
Guest
Bark more, wag less

“This way the residents will have sidewalk seating to interact with the community.”

Community? You mean all the bums coming down from the Commons and library.

I’m sure local businesses are pysched for all these new big spenders…a new line of hobo skinny jeans at Blackbird?

Barfly
Guest
Barfly

Sorry, ‘urness’ still sounds like something you p*ss into, which I guess is appropriate.

So who wants to make some $ selling new “Ballard welcomes its new bum overlords” bumper stickers.

liberalquietscan
Guest
liberalquietscan

Barfly. I’d like one. I also love how objective the blog’s posting is on the subject. Welcome all Seattle’s homeless to Ballard! Our children/owners/renters/victims welcome you with open arms. Come one, come all from all over King County!

kim
Guest
kim

i find it rather funny that they list all of the comforts of home in our neighborhood such as restaurants, coffee shops, drug stores, movies and what not. how are *these* people going to afford that? are taxpayers paying for their entertainment too?

name-nice rose colored glasses you have. where can i get a pair?

Foo Barolo
Guest
Foo Barolo

Regardless of how one feels about this project, does every new building that goes up here have to like like an Eastern Bloc tenement?

You would think they could do a little better. Ballard is beginning to look like the set of Dekalog

Bimmer
Guest
Bimmer

The building sides are bare, because they expect adjacent lots to be developed in similar 8-stories behemoths.
Zoning allows that. Recent condo / mixed-use developments have done that.
Ballard is becoming a dense neighborhood, whether you like it or not.
The project for affordable ‘post-homeless’ housing is not going to matter in the long run.

A million more people will move to Seattle in the next few years.
We need good roads, good bridges, good schools, good hospitals, and we should think of ways to make it livable.
I for one want to live in a modern, livable, and diverse city.
This is not the Shire anymore, you hobbits!

Foo Barolo
Guest
Foo Barolo

“A million more people will move to Seattle in the next few years”

When you start with a statement like that, the rest of your post pretty much loses all its potential cred. Seattle has a current population of about 600K.

Name
Guest
Name

Like it or not, the “homeless business” is thriving while most “fluff businesses” have closed in the past two years. This is just one of the many new employers who support the homeless and we need to welcome them. Many more will come and so will the social services jobs, transitonal housing jobs, drug/alcohol mental health treatment jobs, medical, dental, food care and other jobs. So, before you attack the homeless influx, think and remember you may be biting the hand that feeds you and your neighbors. We all agree, we have no problem with the homeless coming. The question is how we bring the jobs as well to support them properly. Lord knows, we need good jobs here.

Shame
Guest
Shame

It would be nice if they actually built new buildings in Ballard for Offices so that we could have more JOBS in Ballard and not just Appartments and Condos, and now housing for the jobless and homeless.

Sadly too many people play the system. I personally know 2 individuals Downtown that do purposely play the system so that they can do the minimal amount of work to stay in low income house, but do as little as possible in life.

Brenda
Guest
Brenda

This is a wonderful idea. I think that as a stop-gap measure EVERY progressive in Seattle should take in at least one of these poor souls to live in their homes while we wait for wonderful projects like this to be completed.

Name
Guest
Name

Like it or not, we work for the homeless now in Ballard, not the other way around. May as well make the best of it and draw in service jobs taking care of their needs.

Shame
Guest
Shame

I guess that is why it’s so popular to live in Bellevue.

Barfly
Guest
Barfly

“This is just one of the many new employers who support the homeless and we need to welcome them. Many more will come and so will the social services jobs, transitonal housing jobs, drug/alcohol mental health treatment jobs, medical, dental, food care and other jobs. ”

Welcome to Ballard’s new bum-conomy?

” draw in service jobs taking care of their needs.”

Those will be great paying jobs I’m sure.

Barfly
Guest
Barfly

So will the level 1 and 2 sex offenders and rapists they allow into the center be registered?

Der Ham
Member
Der Ham

I lived in Ballard 1989 – 2006 and loved it – it was a great place to live and I also ended up finding a living-wage job there so no commute! However as a renter I was forced to find more affordable accomodations and for the same monthly fee of an apartment I now rent a very nice house in Shoreline. I now look at Ballard through a different angle and it seems like it’s becoming some sort of city that much of the world wants to live in. As small as it is and already dense with housing, traffic, parking, I can’t imagine more 8-story boxes going up. I can’t imagine more single-family lots becoming 3 and 4 units with 1.3 cars each – and it seems many people use their garages for anything but parking their vehicles. Market and Ballard Ave are on the up n up which is nice; Golden Gardens and Shilshole Marina are still great. But what about the quality of life? This seems to be “progress” but at what cost? There appears to be no effort in getting traffic in and out of Ballard to flow better and parking is tight (can only imagine… Read more »

can you spare a...
Guest
can you spare a...

Thank you so much for using the neighborhood we work hard to afford to live in as a resort for your bums, druggies and rapists. I’m glad they can walk to the shops easily. That is why I like it too! It will be convenient when there is no nearby car or bike to steal.

I agree with so many people on here that before you preach to those of us that pay to live here, take one of those ‘honest but down on their luck’ souls into your home.

Additionally, I’d be surprised if there any home owners that don’t care about their property value. That building does look appropriate though as it really captures the essence of “slum”!

Lastly, the sentence: “if you only care about.. reevaluate your values.” sound as though it was written by Sarah Palin. Hopefully I don’t have to explain whether or not that is intended as a compliment.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Not a fan of this proposed ‘Urine House’. These bums don’t want help to ‘get on their feet’. They want hand-outs so they can go and buy more drugs. These same ‘poor souls’ steal from my store every week, harass employees and customers, defecate in the parking lot and shoot up behind the dumpster (leaving needles on the ground). So forgive me if I lack compassion when it comes to Ballard’s homeless. If you support these kinds of projects, you must not spend a lot of time dealing with these people. Try running a business with all of their junky trucks, vans and campers outside of your window, taking up all of the street. Try cleaning up after them, on a daily basis. Try explaining to your customers that the bum who lives in his truck bed means well, when he projectile vomits all over the street; or when he packs up his collection of stolen bikes to sell to a pawn shop; or when he drunkenly yells at them for money. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: If you love these bums so much, and if you truly feel sorry for them, then invite them into… Read more »

TTTCOTTH
Guest
TTTCOTTH

Bum storage, how nice. What could possibly go wrong?