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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.