CityView Lives!

CityView, the project that will not die, will soon be subject to scrutiny during an extraordinary meeting of the Planning Commission.

CityView, the project that will not die, will soon be subject to scrutiny during an extraordinary meeting of the Planning Commission.

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The CityView apartment complex at the corner of Nevada St. and Consolidation Ave was proposed almost 2 years ago.  It now has been reborn as the developer met an April 2nd deadline to reply to a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the city's Planning Department on July 6th of last year.  A Planning Commission meeting to consider the project and to take public comments has been announced by the Planning Director for June 3rd.  The three-building behemoth, surely built to house students with its 3 bedroom/3 bath units, is now being defended by the builder as a place to which not only students will flock but also single or married workers, refugees (I am not joking),  and single mothers with children.

I will remind my readers of the size of this project (106 units and 318 tenants) with a paragraph taken right from the developer's Updated Narrative:

“The proposed project includes 3 buildings. Buildings A & B (20 units each) are identical 2.5 story, 35’ foot tall (height definition #1) residential multi-family buildings. Each building (A and B) consists of 4 walk-up ‘daylight’ residential units on the basement level. The upper two levels contain 16 residential units. Each building has 4 secure entrances, 3 stairwells, and a riser/utility room. Building C is a 5.5 story, 65’ tall (height definition #1) residential multi-family building. Building C consists of 6 walk up ‘daylight’ residential units on the basement level.  The five upper levels contain 60 residential units. The building has 4 secure entrances, a riser/utility room, 3 stairwells and 2 elevators (1 gurney), as well as 3,000 SF of interior common usable area.”  

CityView Site Plan

The “2 elevators (1 gurney)” got my attention.  Is a real gurney thrown in as an extra or is it descriptive of what the elevator can accommodate?  Either way the image conjured up is disquieting, especially for what is essentially a dormitory project.   Notably, the developer is asking for the "option' of doing construction in 2 phases, essentially buildings A and B (the two smaller buildings) and the foundation of building C (with 60 units), followed at some indeterminate time by building C in its entirety.  What this tells me is that financing might be a problem and that building C may very possibly remain as a bare foundation to collect dirt, debris and graffiti for years to come.  

But let's cut the levity.  There are still some serious issues here aside from the fact that 318 student renters  (excepting the notional refugee family described below) will be plopped in the middle of single family homes with no place for overflow parking such as for party attendees, parents, and other such visitors.  One issue that has not been resolved by either the city or the developer is the allowed density, a question that was brought up by an attorney for the neighborhood residents in which significant errors were revealed in a  50 page packet supported by city documents going back to 1994.  Applying today' s density calculations to this parcel (11.1 acres times 8.7 units per acre) brings us to 96, not 106 or a mysterious 176.

“The proposed CityView [development] relies on this phantom density allowance without answering  why  the  Unit  Density for the  Hawley  Replat -  Tract F is 176 units? This density is  approximately twice  that allowed  under the  City of  Bellingham  - Zoning Table  for  Area 17  of   the  Puget  Neighborhood. It  also underlaid  several development  plans,  never approved  or  built, that  proposed   huge,  out  of  character multi-unit  buildings that  would  have dwarfed  the  surrounding  single-family residential  neighborhood. For years, the  Puget Neighborhood  Association  has challenged  the phantom  density  allowance and  the  proposed developments  that seek  to exploit  it. This letter provides  the City  with  the  most  comprehensive investigation  into the  source  of  this  mystery  number. We ask  that the  City  reject the phantom  density  for good   and   require CityView's   proponent  to  provide  an accurate  density calculation.”

The developer surely called in a ghost writer to create several scenarios that demonstrate how wrong the neighborhood is in its assumption that the complex will be nothing more than a student dorm.  To wit:

“Scenario 3: Yara is a mother to her twin sons Amar and Nadim, who just turned 15. In 2012, Yara and her then 6 year old boys fled to Turkey along with thousands of other refugees. In 2016, under the Obama Administration U.S. resettlement program, the family found permanent refuge in Washington State. Yara works part-time for DSHS, and has a passion for assisting others while spending quality time with Amar and Nadim. Through the establishment of Cityview’s “Safe Haven” program, Yara and her family live rent-free. 1 apartment at Cityview will be permanently set aside for this purpose, ensuring it functions as intended for many, many years. Another example of this unit function is the Marilyn Nold Scholarship, see madronabayllc.com/building community.” 

None of the four rental scenarios in the developer's initial submission two years ago were mentioned, especially the free apartment for refugees or his support for the “scholarship” for rental payments.  Now we are supposed to look favorably on this development because he reserves one apartment, among 106, rent free under so-called CityView's “Safe Haven” program which I am sure will be the talk of the town. Not having just fallen off the turnip truck, I detect a rather cynical attempt to charm by smarm our vulnerable city planners. 

Reviewing the entire packet of the developer's response to the city's RFI is not possible to do in this article or even ten articles.  The developer's documents are posted on the city's website.  Go to the drop down menu entitled Submitted Documents - Response to July 6, 2020 RFI.   Of primary interest are the following submissions.  Click on each entry to view the documents.

Updated Narrative

July RFI Response

Action 1 - Residential Use

Action 12 - Density Calculations

You can make written comments now and at least up to the Planning Commission meeting on June 3rd.  If an additional committee meeting is necessary, the comment period might be extended, however, this is not guaranteed.  You can send your comments to cityview@cob.org or use the comment form here. [Ensure that you click on the CityView Project  option on the form.]  Save the date of June 3rd to attend and speak at (presumably by Zoom) the Planning Commission meeting that evening - more specific info on the meeting will be forthcoming.   The more people who speak, the better.  You don't have to have an eloquent speech but speaking frankly about the effects of this horribly inappropriate and misplaced project will suffice.  

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Liz Marshall

May 11, 2021

Sad here next to other killer dormitory. https://www.instagram.com/p/COvDiApHkZn/ 

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Brian McNitt

May 26, 2021

I suppose if the developer was honest about it being the commercial student housing project it is, the project would not be approved. By far the most disingenuous and contentious project facing Bellingham in years. Everyone is watching.

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