May 31, 2009

Updated: New 'townhouses' which are actually a SRO rooming house


(got this from a neighbor a few weeks ago, and sent it on to Marty Liebowitz : Marty  (  has built several innovative small developments in our area (eg Tempus Fugit, 2500 block E. John) and has been talking of a similar sort of development down on MLK, near the grocery store. His illuminating reply is below. )

Hi Andrew -
Wonder if you saw the fliers at the construction site on 23rd and John?  The owner of Calhoun Properties got a permit for townhouses (which went up rapidly right behind the John/23rd intersection.) However, these 'townhouses' are not that. 
Instead, he is building a high end rooming house.  I wonder if this is legal - and if it is, the neighbors should have been told these were not condos/townhouses, but rather a high end SRO 'short term' hotel.
here's the website attached to the flier - appears they are targeting students.  Although our blocks are L3 for multifamily, this is a new one on me.  I think the neighbors / Miller Area need to know about this new 'kink' in the system.
Thanks Andrew for getting the word out. 

Multifamily zoning has always allowed "congregate" housing- a new name for SRO or rooming house needs. I dont assume that the units are specifically geared to students but to anyone who wants to live alone (ie no roomates). The caveate on this housing type is that they have no individual kitchens within each unit- what a "kitchen" is according to land use officials is a space with a "range/stove", hence, a microwave in a unit is ok. They must share a common kitchen space. In these dire economic times, alternative forms of housing for people who are living on limited incomes is needed. Hotels are not permitted in this zone and dilligent moniteering by interested neighbors is important to make sure the project doesnt turn into an Inn, hotel, brothel, or other forms of transient housing. If this occurs, then the city can rescind the "Occupancy Permit" if neighbors bring the matter to the attention of the DPD enforcement division.  Regards, Marty


Andrew Taylor said...

Via E-mail:

I don't know a lot about them, but I walked them, and I think they provide a valuable service -- affordable housing, and though I realize they are kind of a zoning hack, I think people should maintain a more open mind about such things. I don't think the neighborhood is going to go down the drain. A lot of my close friends who are really great people could barely afford to live in those houses - they get by in shared housing, but that doesn't work for some people.

Pastor Rick said...

I live about two blocks from the site. I have no concerns.

But then, I've been hosting housemates of various types for the past 30 years. It seems a little odd that people are worried about poor people moving into the Central Area!

There were tons of grandmothers in the area hosting their out-of-control kids, families doubled up, sofa surfers, party houses, absentee landlords, redlining by the banks, and still it was a great place to live.

As someone who works with homeless people full-time, I welcome any partial solution. The Committee to End Homelessness in King County says it is costing about $225,000 per unit for "affordable" housing. How are blue collar workers going to survive those costs?

Marlow Harris said...

This type of congregate housing has been legal for years. According to the City of Seattle codes, you can have up to 8 unrelated people living in a single unit plus two paying guests. So if you had a duplex, you could have 20 people living there legally. This has been the case for at least 50 years. The law has not been abused. This is just a case of NIMBYism.

Congregate housing is an excellent way to provide inexpensive housing. As long as tenants stay at least 30 days, it is NOT transient accommodation.

Live and let live!