Disturbing Development

We’ve heard a few neighbors concerned with development up around 55th and Kensington. Seeing changes to your neighborhood can be difficult, so we agreed to share both sides of what we’ve heard. Here’s what Shannon had to say:

The project gets more concerning by the day, and we’ve had dozens of neighbors come around asking about the project now that the structure is being built (see photos attached).

Background:  A house sold last fall at 5501 Kensington Place North and the owner has found a loophole to divide the lot and build a separate structure. We thought that SF5000 zoning meant that the lot would only have one house / one owner, but it turns out there’s a zoning exception, defined by the city’s Department of Planning & Development after inquiry:

“Although the general minimum lot area requirement in an SF5000 zone is 5000 square feet, the Land Use Code provides a number of exceptions. One of those exceptions applies to parcels recognized as separate lots in the public record prior to 1957. A portion of the property at 5501 Kensington Place North, adjacent to the alley, was held as a separate tax parcel for over 30 years, starting in 1939. Although this parcel was small [1,050 sf], we concluded that it did qualify for the lot area exception, based on the language of the code. A lot boundary adjustment has been applied for (Project No. 3012875), which would not increase the size of the parcel, but change its shape.”

Project:  Developer Dan Duffus and contractor Steele Granger have divided the lot, excavated the backyard orchard/garden and started construction on an ultra-modern style monolith that will tower like a treehouse over the alley and neighbors’ backyards (with no real street access aside from an odd narrow fenced walkway to Kensington). The existing house was sold to a contractor who is attempting to quickly “flip” it for 150% of the sales price of the full size lot, originally sold just six months ago.

Our take: Three things are especially troubling about the project:

  1. Dan and team have cut a tree that resides on a neighbor’s property nearly in half, with no notification to the neighbor.
  2. It seems the developer may be taking up more space than the alloted 1,050 sf to build the home, based on fence lines and expected size of the new home’s yard space,
  3. the developer negotiated a quit claim deed with a next door neighbor without making his intentions clear to build a new house in the back.

As concerned neighbors, we have filed complaints with the city (Department of Planning & Development), discussed with city officials, tried without success to contact Steele (who agreed to a meeting about the tree “hacking” but then didn’t show up) and consulted with an arborist and lawyer. We’re frustrated by what we see happening in our neighborhood with developers “bending the rules” to make a profit but impacting the quality of lives for those left with the impacts. Have you had similar projects on your block and/or do you have any suggestions on what we should do to impact the outcome?

See photos attached that show how lot was mowed down (including neighbor’s tree), odd fencing of the original house and the huge house being built.

We put in a call to Steele Granger, the developer of the property and related what we’d heard. Here’s what we had to say (transcribed and condensed from our hastily scrawled notes):

This is a really unfortunate situation, but everything I’ve done has been completely legal. There was a tree encroaching on my property. I had my tree guy there, we knocked on the door and nobody was home, so we cut it in half, back to the property line. We did eventually meet with the owner and worked out a compromise. He’s happy, we’re happy. [Ed Note: Steele indicated that that neighbor is out of the country at the moment, so we didn't seek confirmation.]

It’s a historic lot, that’s very small. It’s been an existant lot since the turn of the century, anyone can look in the files at the Seattle DPD. Nothing we did was bending the rules in any way.

People have to understand density in Seattle. It’s a built green home, under 1,400 sq ft. It uses hydronic, efficient heating, net-and-blow insultation, toto / dual flush toilets. It’s a very environmentally friendly home.

I’m moving into this, it’s my future residence, for me and and my future wife. Yes, it’s a small lot, but it’s all I can afford, and I do intend to move into it and I’m creating jobs in Seattle along the way. My family has building in Seattle for over 40 years.

The lot behind the existing house was a separate parcel. A co-worker bought the whole lot, sold the back parcel to another co-worker and sold the other parcel to me.

I’m nervous about moving there, because of reaction from the neighbors, but I want to live in Seattle, and this is a way I can do it that I can afford. It all turned out to be really sad.

That’s what the two sides have to say. Hopefully, by hearing it all, we can have a better understanding than we would just walking by.

  1. Anita said,

    You’ve got to see this monstrosity in person. It towers over all the other homes in our neighborhood. The developer could have made it two stories, but instead constructed a three-story tree house that blocks all the late afternoon sunlight to four homes on the north side and stares directly into the bedrooms and backyards of all the homes surrounding it to the south.

    Hopefully, the guy isn’t some sort of peeping tom with binoculars and a camera.

    It’s going to be a great house for him, but everyone living around it is going to suffer.

    Sat, May 26 at 8:19 am
  2. Robert S. said,

    I don’t care if it is a historical lot. No one should be allowed to build a 3 story full size home in their back yard. Our back yards are the only places we have for privacy and relaxation in an urban area.

    Sat, May 26 at 8:30 am
  3. Nancy M said,

    In my experience it starts badly, continues badly and still hurts after the builders move away (a decade+ later). Make sure it is a single family dwelling and not a boarding house! Plant a few fast-growing trees well inside your property line for starters. Take down your curtains and take off your clothes!
    “I’m nervous about moving there . . .” sums it up. No person is an island. Architorture. Legal doesn’t make it a good idea. The ways to ameliorate are many but time is running out to have this have a good enough ending.

    Sat, May 26 at 8:35 am
  4. Pete said,

    Is this developer being honest with us? Is he really a regular guy like you and me who’s going to attend our neighborhood block parties and is just trying to make an affordable nest for him and his future family? Or could it be that he really doesn’t care about the neighborhood and is simply going to live in the place until the economy recovers? All I know is that the “co-worker” who bought the front house is All Day Construction, a contracting company that specializes in flipping houses and making big money.

    Sat, May 26 at 8:59 am
  5. Amanda Fernandez said,

    So long, trees. See ya later, quiet. Goodbye, privacy. Hello, Mr. developer.

    Sat, May 26 at 10:31 am
  6. walkinroun said,

    My condolences to the neighbors. I do not buy the developer’s sad story. They knew full well they were building a three story monstrosity on this tiny backyard lot. My bet is they will claim hostility for a reason not to live in it and to sell it to someone else too boorish to care about this home’s obvious impact. Especially galling is their use of the density argument and their claims of “built green” construction: something many other developers in this less and less living green city like to crow about and use as an excuse to rip (up) and run (off).

    Sat, May 26 at 10:51 am
  7. Jon said,

    Does anyone else see the irony in the name of the developer….Duffus????

    Sat, May 26 at 11:12 am
  8. GreenButSociallyConscious said,

    I can understand density in Seattle in neighborhoods that support it. Dan and Steele very well know the properties surrounding their site can not be sub-divided, thus the neighborhood really does not support it. And based on reaction from the community, the neighborhood does not want this type of density. This one-off unique lot situation and the City allowing a lot adjustment, development and density puts other lot owners at a disadvantage, potentially even impacting surrounding property values. I am outraged at the City for not reviewing the request with a wider lens and giving consideration for the community and potential financial impacts in an already tough economy and housing market. And I am disturbed by Developers who tout they are “green” builders yet not socially conscious about the impact of their building to the surrounding community both financially and quality of living. The community treasures their private backyard spaces in an urban setting. Shame on Dan. Shame on Steele. And shame on the City. Steele should feel sad and should feel guilty about his lack of social consciousness. I would not be able to sleep at night if I were him let alone thinking about living in a house that neighbors abhor. I just hope others take note of this development, and take action with the City against Developers taking advantage of unique lots and destroying the quality of life as well as potentially impacting the value of neighboring homes.

    Sat, May 26 at 12:03 pm
  9. Shannon said,

    Steele positions this building site as a separate parcel, and I’d like to explain how it got that way because the precedence of this situation concerns me. The house at 5501 Kensington Pl North sold as a standard 5000 sf ft lot. Unfortunately, the developer knew about a loophole in city code which allowed him to get an exception to the SF5000 zoning.

    After extensive research by the city, at the request of the developer, city officials in the Dept of Planning & Development learned that the property included a triangular 1,050sf area starting back in 1939 that was held as a separate tax parcel, likely to “smooth out the edges” as part of joining the two areas of the block back when GreenLake was first forming.

    This odd-shaped area never had a structure on it and was never intended as a separate buildable lot, and it merged with the rest of its parcel 30 years later. The fact that this developer exploited this historical use causes a very unusual situation, one that a city representative said she “had never seen before.” By granting a boundary lot adjustment to the developer, the city opened the door for a building that caused even a city official to comment “I’ve not seen someone try to build on a lot this small.”

    So Steele’s reference to the “lot behind the existing house” isn’t genuine. They were able to change the location and shape of the lot, with a request to adjust it in order to get an approved building permit for the giant three story structure that is now towering over our homes and yards like an “Alley Skyscraper.”

    By definition, a boundary lot adjustment isn’t intended to create additional lots or building sites. But that’s what happened in this case, and I’m concerned with the precedence this has for our city. If you’re concerned, let city officials know that they should consider the broader impact before granting similar boundary lot adjustments and building permits.

    You can refer to this project: Boundary lot adjustment project number 3012875 / Building Permit 6304867 / tax parcel 3856905661. City complaint site: http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/complaintform/Default.aspx

    Sat, May 26 at 12:37 pm
  10. Brinn R. said,

    Are these the same idiots that built that ugly 5 story tower house behind the old Luau restaurant?

    Sat, May 26 at 1:28 pm
  11. Anne Droid said,

    I really don’t want Wallingford to become the Land of McMansions. And population density in Seattle is already more than adequate, thank you.

    Sat, May 26 at 5:16 pm
  12. Eleanor Bowman Krause said,

    We love to visit Seattle, especially the Green Lake/Wallingford neighborhood, especially Kensington Avenue N. We’ve always appreciated the charm of this diverse, aware area. Artists, gardeners, educated cohesive neighbors, and travellers like us, all appreciate the sweet, historic alley ways and funky individually-designed gardens. Shops, grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops and a convenient busline are all within a walk.

    It is a real oversite on the part of Seattle land-use planners that such a remuddle is underway here. Please don’t let this kind of thing continue.

    Sat, May 26 at 5:24 pm
  13. coolio said,

    The picture makes the house look really bad. The tree- butchering looks worse.

    However, a thought, hmmmmm, horrible developers bending city code is ok and good for business when it blocks views of a lake, shades great stretches of sidewalk,, but it is bad when someone does the same thing in a neighborhood? I had to say it.

    By th eway, check out the building plans on Woodland Park N and 46th.. tear up an old house which looks like a boarding house.. with porch, trees etc.. and make a large multiple residence.. same idea, possible to stop maybe while it looks like this is a done deal.

    Sat, May 26 at 5:32 pm
  14. Judy said,

    It is my understanding that even small lots have some setback requirements, and this looks like it exceeds the height standards for the zone.

    Usually 30 yrs of adoption into the larger lot would be adverse possession and not allowed to revert.

    I would be glad to look into this pro bono when I get back from my trip east–back June 6.
    Judith Stoloff, FAICP (means I am a planner with some respect from the profession)

    Sat, May 26 at 5:51 pm
  15. peter said,

    I have lived in Madrona, Mount Baker, Belltown, Lynnwood and North Beach, and I own two nice houses in Wallingford. I can tell you that developers only care about making money, that is their life. I wish that we could get a petition together and go to the city counsel to get this developer fined for cutting a tree on another person’s property.

    I am waiting for a developer to build a development next to I5 so the Wally citizens who have to endure I5 can get some respite. The noise is horrible and getting worse each year.

    Sat, May 26 at 6:20 pm
  16. Dennis said,

    I can’t say for sure about this guy but in my experience developers who are trying to do something unreasonable typically say “I’m planning on living here” then as soon as the thing is done the for sale sign goes up.

    Sat, May 26 at 6:44 pm
  17. linda kager said,

    Coolio, I’m with you (at least kind of) … things change. And you guys are hilarious! NIMBY!!! but you need to understand, that is spoken with ‘understanding’ of the changes that time brings. And if you think lots haven’t been broken up over the last 40 years and density w a y upped, think again. I don’t like it one bit either (my neighbor said he was going to put a dormer on his second story, was that ok? dormer ma; second story – bye bye morning sun … ) YES, it happens … this was a poor blue collar working class neighborhood. No skinny house; nothing taller than 2 stories; double lots!; orchards! and empty parking places. And look at it now. (And I hope that guy actually lives here with his family; I get tired of hearing “can’t wait to move in.” !)

    Sat, May 26 at 7:13 pm
  18. Rick Barrett said,

    Mayor McGinn really loves density. Diane Sugimura, DPD Director
    [email protected], knows which side her bread is buttered on, so rarely sees a developer proposal that her planners can’t find some way to make “legal”.
    I think Wallingford has been had. Don’t drown in the greenwash bucket.

    Sat, May 26 at 8:51 pm
  19. bbb said,

    Good luck! The rental I lived in across the street (before buying our house 13 years ago) was bought by a developer who (illegally) added 5 bedrooms to the basement thus changed from a respectable 3 bedroom to a dormitory (sans additional parking) much to the alarm of all the neighbors. Our letters of complaint to the city fell on deaf ears.

    Sat, May 26 at 9:52 pm
  20. Disappointed neighbor said,

    Sadly it’s in the same vein as that monstrosity on the corner of Kensington and 54th. How that one can be legal is beyond me – for starters, there’s absolutely no way that the height is to code. DPD turns a blind eye to a lot of things unfortunately. I’m not liking the trend of turning our neighborhood into the Eastside – especially since urban lots are smaller, and those oversized, towering buildings completely invade the privacy of neighboring houses and gardens.

    Sat, May 26 at 10:01 pm
  21. coolio said,

    there it is Barrett, thanks.. no need to go to any meetings about any reviews.. I knew it all along. get ready for that ‘green? not really” monstrosity on the end of stoneway with skanksa

    Sun, May 27 at 7:52 am
  22. E30 Memorial said,

    Small time developers don’t bother me, they’re just like anybody else here trying to make a living. The developers that piss me off are the corporations raping the taxpayers with projects like the tunnels, the monorails, the bridges, the stadiums and the list goes on and on. Less then a hundred years ago, developers came to what is call Wallingford, stripped the land and built countless houses for a bunch of NIMBY’s that now complain about a house going in here or there. Developers of the projects that are complained about I’m sure would be more than welcome to sell the land to anyone here in Wallingford for their own private little park. High density building started long before McGinn, but if people want to blame him I’m good with that. Building anywhere in King County or Washington for that matter has become so cumbersome and costly, it’s no wonder the big corporations are taking over. The county has made it next to impossible to move outward, so the only choice is in-city. Small time developers just can’t win.

    Steve

    Sun, May 27 at 7:54 am
  23. peter said,

    To: E30 Memorial

    There is a difference between developers who honor the land and neighborhood and those who rape it. I am not a developer, but I have taken advantage of real estate as an investment in Seattle. I have two rental properties in Wallingford and both have nicer architecture than my properties in other neighborhoods. I drive to and through Wallingford 5-6 days per week. Other than a little too much density for my taste, Wallingford is one of the very best neighborhoods in Seattle. It has some of the most beautiful architecture anywhere, much nicer than more expensive neighborhoods such as Blue Ridge or anywhere in northeast Seattle.

    The house shown in the pictures is disgusting and totally overbuilt for the lot size. There are ways to have made it more attractive, but this would or may have cost more money. Herein lies the problem. Are there codes for preservation in Seattle?

    I just spent a lot of money to restore a 1902 Victorian in Wallingford. There are not many houses in this entire city that are that old. Wallingford has several houses that were built more than a hundred years ago. This should count for something in a city that has amazing natural beauty, but unlike Tacoma, has destroyed most of its beautiful early 20th century architecture.

    I grew up in Park Slope, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. It has been experiencing this same type of garbage for the last 40 years and now they are doing it to Wallingford. Ugly modern boxes next to charming vintage homes. Size is important, but so is poor taste.

    Sun, May 27 at 8:27 am
  24. Green Laker said,

    This isn’t the first case of a house / people arriving in the n’hood and having the situation become as horrific as the alley job. It happened next door to the Burgundian, mid-block on N 57th between 1st and Kensington, and at 1st and NE 56th. All of these “homes” are TOTALLY OUT OF PLACE, CHARACTER, AND SCALE with the surroundings. All, in theory, comply with code; if so the code is effed up given the end product. Neither squeezing something in nor calling it “green” nor “modern” nor using materials (like metal siding) make these places part of the look and feel of this neighborhood. They will always stick out like the ugly sore thumbs they are.

    If anyone now living in these places were in the shoes of those on adjacent lots and witnessed the finessing of code details to build such inappropriate structures, they’d be posting the type of comments herein, but somehow like the Kensington developer, they explain themselves as reasonable, legitimate, and tell the rest of us to get over it. Well, we’re not over it.

    Sun, May 27 at 4:02 pm
  25. bbb said,

    After living in my neighborhood for almost 10 years, I bought the house across the street (13 years ago) from a retired architect who could have sold the property for much much more $. But he preferred to sell this 1890 victorian major fixer-upper to us who promised to renovate and honor the house & neighborhood. I grew up in Boston; My father was also an architect who bought neighboring property when it was destined to be sold to developers, and tastefully altered the site to save the house & neighborhood. There IS a way to respect a city’s history and make a profit.

    Sun, May 27 at 9:59 pm
  26. Marjorie said,

    I’m surprised the city didn’t require an “Environmental Impact” sign be posted before allowing this neighborhood pimple to pop up

    Mon, May 28 at 7:37 am
  27. Brian said,

    @22 and @23, It’s demeaning and disrespectful to refer to land use actions or other building projects as “rape.” Call them misguided, or unfortunate, or some other term of your choice, but please do not conflate them with actual physical violence against living, breathing humans.

    Mon, May 28 at 8:57 am
  28. coolio said,

    @ Brian.. loss of air, sky, sun, privacy feel like physical violence and 22 and 23 have a reason an dexpressed their feelings and views.

    people like you and your comments caused me to drop out for awhile.
    leave the negative critical against others speech at thome

    talk about the issue

    Mon, May 28 at 9:03 am
  29. Nancy M said,

    It would be so refreshing to read about a new structure around here that had so much care and so many actually green features that it was all the buzz. “Wow! Who drew your plans? How creative! Where did you find_______? What great repurposing! Did the Re-Store figure in? Is that a green roof? Look at how many existing trees you saved and love the new ones. Welcome!”

    If the builder and the developer need a clue: That is what is missing and why this blog isn’t full of welcome mat party plans. And those of us who have had privacy encroached and garden privacy invaded know that while one gets over it eventually in a life can suck/not everyone treats each other the way they want to be treated lesson-learned kind of way – and after spending LOTS of time and money to screen and green.

    Mon, May 28 at 9:47 am
  30. Jill said,

    Technically legal doesn’t make it right. What’s the point in greed when there are ways to make reasonable profits in doing the right thing? There are better ways for increased density. The remodeled house is now overpriced and not selling. The new construction is offensively ugly. Ideally the developer and contractor will not profit overall, and the city will learn to review projects more carefully.

    Mon, May 28 at 10:26 am
  31. Kevin said,

    I live on one of the corners just down the street, at 54th and Kensington. This project is indeed troubling because it is exactly the type of development that our existing zoning laws were designed to prohibit. It is my belief that deceit was used to trick a neighbor into allowing the use of a small parcel to provide enough square footage for the easement. I am not an attorney, but it does seem to me that if this is indeed the case, something might still be done to reverse the process. If so, I believe it is worth pursuing. The aesthetic damage is bad enough, but for the immediate neighbors to have to bear a drastic change in the value of their own properties compounds the problem.

    As for the very large new house across the street from us at 54th and Kensington, that home is a single-family dwelling that complies with all zoning laws. I was concerned about the possibility of multiple skinny houses going up on that double lot site, and am grateful to the owners for choosing to simply build their dream home instead of speculating. I also appreciate that they went out of their way to ensure that the construction process did not adversely affect the immediate neighbors.

    In closing, thanks to those responsible for directing me to this site. It is nice to have a forum to discuss issues that concern us.

    Mon, May 28 at 11:44 am
  32. Ryan said,

    It would be interesting to know the terms of the quit claim.

    Mon, May 28 at 2:09 pm
  33. Brian said,

    @28 coolio: The issue is an interesting one for sure: Literally, what should the limits to NIMBY be? How do we balance aesthetics with the need to accommodate our growing population? Is the developer being greedy or making the most of a legal opportunity? I’m not sure myself. Perhaps I should not have made a somewhat off-topic comment above.

    Still, language matters. When words lose their meaning then our society winds up in trouble. That’s all I’m trying to convey.

    Mon, May 28 at 3:06 pm
  34. Trent said,

    Does anyone know why the monster mansion at 54th and Kensington is only assessed at $676,000? It should be like 3x that much. They’re paying less property taxes than the much smaller house next door.

    Mon, May 28 at 3:45 pm
  35. peter said,

    property taxes are based on some objective criteria such as how much you payed for the property, but in many places the county does not even catch up to the sale price for years. Also, there are so many ways to get ones taxes lowered. I should think that the person who lives next to the monstrosity could make a good argument that her/his property value has been reduced. This is a sincere and justifiable request.

    To the wordsmyth who did not like my use of the word “rape” to describe the destruciton of a neighborhood street, it is true that messing up the aesthetics of a neighborhood is not the equivalent of physically hurting a human (or higher level animal); however, when someone is used to ample sunlight, breezes, relative quiet, and vegetation, and then it is taken away, it influences a person’s mood, physiology and health.Sorry, can’t be buddhist in this situation, I hope the perpetrators lose lots of money.

    Mon, May 28 at 5:30 pm
  36. Ted said,

    I know that the city is trying to increase population density. This is not the way to do it. It is changing the nature of our neighborhood in a negative way. I hope that the city will not continue to allow such actions.
    It is also certainly unethical to ‘trick’ a neighbor, who was trying to be kind, into a quit claim.

    Mon, May 28 at 5:48 pm
  37. Nancy M said,

    @36 If that is true, why? Could it have something to do with a property tax-based economy? Would passing State Income Tax change the paradigm? When I lived in a state with both state and federal the former counted against the latter so it made no difference; that said I wasn’t a big-bucks earner.
    Tricky sneaky deals beat-the-system, (&$^#^ -the-village like this at base are really heart breaking to neighbors near and far. We want the bar set higher.

    Mon, May 28 at 6:02 pm
  38. Ryan said,

    I am guessing that no one was “tricked” into signing a quit claim deed. I’m sure it was paid for, and I would also guess the neighbor knew exactly what was going on. I’m just speculating, of course.

    Mon, May 28 at 6:23 pm
  39. R&B said,

    Re:: Quit Claim/Lot Boundary Agreement

    The agreement made by both property owners and Dan Duffus was to correct for a fence which was built on the incorrect property line. The fence for 5501 was built on 5427 property in the front and fence for 5427 built on 5501 property in the back. The Developer’s intention prior to the agreement was to build a “nice, like-sized home on the lot” as communicated via his Realtor.

    Mon, May 28 at 7:02 pm
  40. Shannon said,

    I’ve heard several questions about expected exterior finishes to the “Alley Skyscraper”, with people wondering if the siding/trim/roof might help it blend into the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I only expect it to get worse. Pb elemental did the design/architecture, and here’s a link to their residential portfolio, which shows their typical ultra-modern look: http://www.pbelemental.com/pbinternational_res05.html

    This style might look good in some circumstances but not as a backyard monolith that’s abutting neighboring property from every angle. At a construction cost of $154,000, they’re not spending money on character-building details that would make it any easier to look at.

    Mon, May 28 at 8:23 pm
  41. Nancy M said,

    It looks like a middle finger kissing the Wallingford sky to me. Exterior finishes will be lipstick . . . not one indented space (character-building detail), form follows functional excess.

    Mon, May 28 at 8:50 pm
  42. harley said,

    this thing is crazy. I walked by it today. that alley was always one of my favorites and I even modeled my own little office/garage off of the cute one that is now completely overlorded by the monstrous house. my heart goes out to that owner.

    I’d love to see a bit more reporting from our resident cub scout jordan on this one. maybe a little more depth on the reporting side vs. just a quote from each side. seems worthy? maybe it’s the path to your pulitzer?

    personally, from the little I can tell I find the developer’s arguments and position to be disingenuous. I’d lay 10:1 that he and his “future wife” don’t spend a day in that place.

    boo.

    Mon, May 28 at 9:03 pm
  43. SeattleAlan said,

    Having lived in the neighborhood since ’64 and right next to Kevin for many of that time, I’m very disappointed in developments like this. 2 skinny houses that went up on Kirkwood decades ago, and the developer left the trees in the front. They worked out. I really hate when a developer squeezes in the last little bit of house on a lot that is too small as it is in a “traditional” neighborhood. The character of the neighborhood does nothing but lose is character and turns into one box after another. I’m really against higher density in old neighborhoods. It needs to be planned out much better than this ugly project.

    Mon, May 28 at 9:35 pm
  44. SeattleAlan said,

    Shannon – Thanks for the link to the designer’s site. The picture of that white box built between two older homes is just atrocious. If someone wants to live in something that sterile, build it in SODO. Yuck!

    Mon, May 28 at 9:40 pm
  45. Fruitbat said,

    1. Regarding property taxes–areas are re-assessed every 3-4 years, so valuations can lag far behind reality.

    2. Regarding density–I’m for density; but jamming hideous detached single-family houses onto tiny lots is not a way to achieve urban density–not dense enough, and obviously not seen as an enhancement to the community. Thoughtfully-designed multi-unit buildings, row houses–these are appealing ways to achieve density (as opposed to boxy blob o’ condos or the customary set of four ugly townhouses facing each other’s garages).

    Mon, May 28 at 9:51 pm
  46. Donn said,

    I think “disingenuous” gives him too much credit. This is the guy who at the opening of our story finds no one at home when he knocks on the door, so proceeds to cut his neighbor’s tree in half. At the close, he says he’s “nervous about moving there, because of reaction from the neighbors.” This is someone who doesn’t care if we think he’s lying, any more than he cares what the neighbors think. He isn’t going to partially salvage this atrocious construction with some cool, quirky architectural touches that give it some redeeming neighborhood landmark value, because he wouldn’t know where to start and he doesn’t care anyway.

    “People have to understand density in Seattle.” he says. It’s too bad there’s no way to summon Planning & Development officials from their offices, out to meet the neighborhoods where they could explain how their give-aways to developers are doing the community any good, maybe that would give us a chance to understand. Maybe some intrepid journalist type could get an interview or something.

    Mon, May 28 at 10:05 pm
  47. Jack said,

    Wallingford residents tolerate overgrown vegetation, cluttered properties, chicken coops, and neglected old houses, but they become a virtual lynch mob when someone builds a clean, modern structure.

    This thread shows just how ugly Wallingford is.

    Tue, May 29 at 2:52 am
  48. Anne Rasmussen said,

    Sad to hear of cut tree & possible fate of historical house on 46th. Mad about loopholes and Executive Orders. I would have liked to have heard 3rd side to this story. Dan Duffus? Steele Granger?…real names? On the subject of housing and density, any thoughts on Agenda 21 or Chemtrails?

    Tue, May 29 at 4:49 am
  49. coolio said,

    from driving by the sign on 46th and woodland park n looks like the house will be replaced with 6 different structures.. some day I’ll walk by an dread in detail. However, we have all lost everytime with the city and development.. so theres no hurry.. sadly.

    Tue, May 29 at 7:07 am
  50. peter said,

    One should not equate “overgrown vegetation, cluttered properties, chicken coops, and neglected old houses” with overbuilding. First, the former are all much more easily changed than overbuilding. Neglected old houses have the chance of being restored and are part of the more original landscape. Some people run into bad times and are not able to maintain their properties. This is true in many good neighborhoods including Madrona, Leschi, North Beach, and even Queen Anne.

    Why would you call your neighbors a “lynch mob” ? If you carefully read the threads, you will see that this is not only about aesthetics, but about OVERBUILDING and how it influences the neighboring residents and beyond.

    There are parts of Wallingford that include “modern structures”, such as south of 40th street and east of Stoneway; some of these look fine in these more industrial parts of Wallingford, especially when they are “lumped” together.

    Tue, May 29 at 8:06 am
  51. Kevin said,

    #47

    “Virtual lynch mob.” Hyperbolize much? I also love your choice of the word “ugly” to describe the attitude of neighbors in this isolated case. That is exactly how I would describe the hack job done on a neighbor’s tree, the “remodel” (read: flip job) of the house on the front of the lot, the tower going up in the back, and the process used to obtain approval by the city. (Not to mention the method employed to gain neighbor approval for the quit claim deed.) My prediction is a true “lose/lose” situation when the dreamed of quick profits fail to materialize as well. Ugly? You bet. Just not in the way you’re describing…

    Tue, May 29 at 9:24 am
  52. Peter K. said,

    Looks like the Federal government needs to step in and take control of yet another Seattle city department. First it was the police department; now it’s the department of planning and development.

    Building a big box house in place of an older, smaller home is one thing. But letting someone build a giant, three-story home in their back yard?! The back yard!

    If someone builds a new garage in their backyard, the neighbors can screen it off with trees. But how do you screen off a backyard structure that looms higher than the home in front of it — and all the other homes around it?

    Diane Sugimura ([email protected]), the director of the DPD is either asleep at the wheel, too cozy with developers or incompetent. Either way, some outside body should step in and look at how she and her planners are applying this goal of increased density.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:40 am
  53. E30 Memorial said,

    One good thing that will come from many of these ideas is that it will definitely raise home values.

    Brian, My apologies that you’re offended by my wording. For your sake I’ll try not to use it again, it’s just that your definition isn’t the only definition of the word.

    Steve

    Tue, May 29 at 9:53 am
  54. Donn said,

    What will “definitely raise home values”? I missed something.

    Tue, May 29 at 10:11 am
  55. Trent said,

    Is there anything that can be done to stop this from happening again? Or do we just have to take whatever developers choose to do to us? One day we’ll wake up and look out the bedroom window and be greeted by a towering monolith blocking the sun and looking down in on us. And we’ll be SOL, because the people who live in the neighborhood have no say in how the place we live should be. Developer profits, that’s the most important.

    Tue, May 29 at 10:50 am
  56. mike said,

    The real estate company listing 5501 Kensington is RE/MAX at the north end of Green Lake.
    A good neighbor?

    Tue, May 29 at 3:10 pm
  57. ? said,

    For the person who was concerned by the use of the word ‘rape’, let me simply state that many words have multiple meanings, rape being one of them. A good dictionary might be a worthwhile investment.

    Tue, May 29 at 4:51 pm
  58. Wally Neighbor said,

    This is not new territory for Dan Duffus and Soleil Development……..

    http://jetcityjournal.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/04/gaming-the-seattle-dpd-permitting-process.html

    Tue, May 29 at 5:33 pm
  59. Kevin said,

    Wow. That is truly amazing, Wally Neighbor. Peter K, did you see post #58?

    Tue, May 29 at 6:00 pm
  60. SeattleAlan said,

    Quite the work-over by developers, taking quiet single family neighborhoods and gaming the system at the expense of the current residents. People live in these neighborhoods for the original look and feel of the neighborhood. These developers snatch up the a quick deal, over build for the neighborhood (but within rules & regs), take the money and run. How can we get the city to protect us?

    Tue, May 29 at 6:29 pm
  61. GB said,

    Nobody likes change, especially when it’s taking place on their neighbor’s property. In this case, this new tall structure towers over what had been the next door neighbor’s nicely landscaped back garden and that’s unfortunate. However, like views that are encroached on by new buildings (built within legal limits) or trees that have grown up over the years, this is one of the inconveniences of living in a big city which is trying to increase density, make public transportation more attractive and help reduce sprawl. This is the price we pay for living in a big city like Seattle, along with the drone of traffic on I-5 and backed up cars on 50th Street during the weekends. The alternative is to buy and live on a 5-acre plot on the Eastside, one with a helicopter pad, perhaps, and horses. But we who live in Seattle have chosen otherwise in spite of the downsides.

    We cannot choose our neighbors and we cannot control much of what they choose to do with their property, not if they are playing by rules (the creation of which we bear some responsibility). Do I find this structure offensive and out of place? Yes! Are there other houses in this neighborhood I find offensive? Absolutely, both older and newer buildings. I sometimes wish I had the power to vanquish the ugly and the tasteless and deport them all to SeaTac but, alas, I’ve chosen to live in a crowded neighborhood with neighbors at my elbows and NOT on acreage in Snohomish County.

    That said, if laws have been broken, if zoning regulations have been circumvented, then this or any other building should be stopped. But if this builder is playing by the rules, we have little right to complain.

    Tue, May 29 at 6:38 pm
  62. Nancy M said,

    The Wallingford Community Council is one place to start. The meeting is next Wednesday night, Good Shepherd Center, 7pm.
    http://wallingford.org/get-involved/community-council/

    Tue, May 29 at 6:38 pm
  63. Nancy M said,

    Gigantic single-family homes do not increase density by a factor of much.

    Tue, May 29 at 6:41 pm
  64. peter said,

    These threads are great.

    !What an amazing neighborhood!

    Yah never know, perhaps these comments will lead to a petition or even letter to the Mayor. I am ready to sign on the dotted line.

    Perhaps we could redefine density to include: “in character with the neighborhood”. And then define character as: modal height, set backs, green areas, and even architecture. I know the last one will be hard to defend. Lover’s of modern architecture only need go to Fremont, Leschi, Interbay, Madison Valley, etc.

    Tue, May 29 at 6:58 pm
  65. SeattleAlan said,

    I like your definition, Peter! Well written.

    Tue, May 29 at 7:05 pm
  66. peter said,

    GB,
    Hah Hah, I can assure you, you are better off not owning acreage in Snohomish County. It is one of the most corrupt places I have ever had to deal with. They will let anyone do whatever they want for a price. King County is saintly compared to Snocounty. That county is filled with beautiful lakes that are being ruined by developers. They are allowed to build without proper runoff controls and there is land erosion everywhere. Only 15 years ago, just 18 miles north of Seattle, there were small farms and horses on one acre lots and now they are filled with skinny townhouses.
    Yes, people need a place to live and this is what they can afford, but if others are willing to pay much more money to live in Wallingford, they deserve to have something better.
    I know for a fact that in terms of access to health care, good secondary schools and universities, and cultural stimulation, to say nothing of employment, your theoretical five acres in Snohomish Cnty is not worth a decent house in Wallingford. You know that, but where we differ is that I do not agree that having one’s light, air, and space encroached on has to be a fear that Wallingford neighbors have to live with because density is inevitable.

    Tue, May 29 at 7:26 pm
  67. coolio said,

    go for it Peter.. a petition is a good place to begin..
    multiple phone calls to the city with complaints as well as emails with pictures.

    About a year ago I called everyone listed on a topic here and reported back to the forum.. no one else did. I am a low income renter.. it’s truly your game.

    Tue, May 29 at 7:33 pm
  68. Nancy M said,

    Petitions and letters guided by people who understand how grass roots efforts work in Seattle is how traffic calming came to east Wallingford. It started with getting on the agenda for discussion at a WCC meeting in 1997; that forum attracted interest and eventually SDOT, SPD and KKMetro collaborated on the effort and SDON provided free street trees. Making a bunch of unorchestrated Wallingford noise/creating an general petition is just noise. Also those plywood walls are going up faster than posts on this blog and specific municipal code interpretations/departures need investigating; just like the police can’t arrest without evidence . . . I am currently involved in a parallel neighborhood challenge but I see lots of leadership and good community care going on here. East Wallingford knows how badly things can go when property owners disrespect and circumvent the rules.

    Tue, May 29 at 7:47 pm
  69. jason said,

    Wow, I can see why this guy won’t want to move in. I would be afraid for my safety. Were there no notice of proposed land use signs posted on the property? That would generally be the time to speak up, not after the guy has already poured foundation. If you were all such a tight knit community wouldn’t you have known about this beforehand? I unsderstand you all love the neighborhood you live in but being that you live in an urban area surrounded by water it makes it difficult to keep up with population growth and expansion. Also from a sales tax/property tax perspective high density areas are the only way the city will stay afloat. I mean I would really hate to see the threads on this forum when your roads deteriorate and your property taxes triple.

    Tue, May 29 at 8:02 pm
  70. Trent said,

    Giant single family homes don’t increase density. They don’t repair roads. Clear-cutting all the trees isn’t green. All it does is allow developers to profit at the expense of the people who actually live here.

    There were no proposed land use signs.

    I wonder if anyone from DPD has had some kind of consulting job with Soleil? They seem very adept at getting things pushed through with amazing speed that us normal homeowners could never manage.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:09 pm
  71. peter said,

    Oh, Nancy, save us from the developers,

    “petitions and letters guided by people who understand how grass roots efforts work in Seattle is how traffic calming came to east Wallingford. It started with getting on the agenda for discussion at a WCC meeting in 1997; that forum attracted interest and eventually SDOT, SPD and KKMetro collaborated on the effort and SDON provided free street trees.
    Thank you for doing this.
    So what does ” Making a bunch of unorchestrated Wallingford noise/creating an general petition is just noise.” have to do with anything? Is this your way of saying that only you know how to get things done?

    Very nice, thanks for the traffic calming. Apparently it did nothing for the people who live next to the John Stanford School. Residents can not get out of their houses at three o’clock in the afternoon. Great job. Hopefully, your orchestrated petition will be more successful with respect to the landscape.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:22 pm
  72. Ken said,

    This house and entire situation is disgusting–an eyesore and an abomination. It’s a real shame that this Wallingford / Tangeltown neighborhood of mostly bungalows is being taken over by ugly, oversized new construction. Why are they putting a second house on what was formerly one lot? The developer should have his license revoked. Although I’m not crazy about the giant house at 54th and Kensington, and it’s in fact five feet higher than it’s legally supposed to be, it at least, within the limits of current construction constraints, kind of looks like a Craftsman home, albeit on steroids. And the house that it replaced wasn’t the greatest place anyway. (And, maybe I’m a bit jealous!!!–it’s a fairly cool mcmansion, and way out of my price range.) I am a bit disturbed to learn of the tax assesment for it, if in fact the number posted is correct.

    If anyone thinks my property value will increase because of this “Wallingford Alley Skyscraper”, they need to seek professional psychotherapy. I will happily sign any petition to have this new home project condemned. I won’t do it, but I hope someone burns it down, providing there’s no collateral damage to the rest of the great homes in my neighborhood. And as to increasing population density in a viable manner, how is that being accomplshed with this piece of crap? Bad karma for the city for having allowed this to happen, but of course there will be no repercussions for those who did.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:27 pm
  73. jason said,

    I thought the house is only 1200 sq ft? Having a higher densely populated area does increase tax revenue in terms of property taxes as well as gas taxes and sales taxes, which all contribute to road improvements and more state revenue. The loophole you are all referring to is still a law and if the guy wants to build a house on it, it is his right to do so. If you are all upset with it move to some place that has ccrs where you can legally prohibit things like this, the color of the house, how long their grass is etc. we live in America and He has the same legal right to build the house as you all as the builder that built your house. I am sure the neighborhood wasn’t happy when your property was zoned for 5000 square foot lots but that changed as the population did.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:33 pm
  74. Nancy M said,

    Peter and Jason, why not try to be part of the solution?

    Tue, May 29 at 9:34 pm
  75. Luddite said,

    @ 71: I believe she was referring to the Wallingford Community Council.

    Tue, May 29 at 9:42 pm
  76. Kevin said,

    jason

    I believe that much of the rancor stems from the lack of notification and transparency about what the developer and contractor were planning to do with respect to the lot. There were no signs, and I for one believe that the immediate neighbors should have been in the loop from the beginning. (Especially because the plans turned out to affect their own properties so drastically.) Building a new structure in what formerly was a backyard is a very big change in land use.

    The owners of the large new house on the corner of 54th and Kensington, on the other hand, spoke with us frequently before, during and after their project, gave neighbors frequent tours during construction, and the entire process was actually more of a joy than a burden. Perhaps it is simply the difference between people building a home they plan to live in versus a developer trying to maximize profit.

    Tue, May 29 at 10:19 pm
  77. Scott B said,

    This is just frustrating. While I sympathize with a guy trying to make a buck nowadays, don’t make it at the expense of others and their neighborhood. This place is ugly and inappropriate. I submitted a complaint to the city and encourage others to do so until they respond.

    Tue, May 29 at 10:51 pm
  78. GB said,

    Well, the votes are in and it turns out we just don’t like that house, not one bit, not its location nor its height nor what the builder did to the tree next door. My question is whether we have the right to do anything about it if it was built in compliance with laws and zoning regulations. There are many things that offend me in this neighborhood. I see them when I’m walking my dog. There’s the house where the lavender planted on the parking strip drapes over sidewalk, making it too narrow for two people to walk abreast. There’s the house with the weeds sprouting from the gutters and the one with trash all over the front lawn. There’s that 10′ wide x 100′ high skyscraper just south of 56th and Kirkwood and the “REI” house which are both out of character with the houses around them and the neighborhood as a whole. Then there’s that house with the garden gnome out front, not to mention numerous houses with peeling paint. All of these are offensive to me.

    For better or worse, however, I don’t live in a neighborhood with covenants which tell me what color of beige to paint my house or whether I can have a pickup parked on my property. They have that over in Sammamish and Bellevue. My point is that we are free to like or dislike what is on other peoples’ property but we cannot control what they do with it, provided they conform with regulations and do not compromise public safety. But we are also free to complain and vent our disgust as in many of these posts. We are also free to work on changing zoning laws and regulations so, like many of you have suggested, if you see something you don’t like, then get busy. But ultimately, simply voicing dislikes and contempt comes down to impotent whining.

    Wed, May 30 at 6:28 am
  79. E30 Memorial said,

    Well said GB

    Wed, May 30 at 6:57 am
  80. Peter K. said,

    My name is Peter Krause. While I agree with some of the comments of the other Peter/Pete, I just want my neighbors to know that my only comment above is #52, and I don’t anticipate commenting below.

    I believe our best focus point for getting action on this issue is Richard Conlin or Tim Burgess. Richard is the Seattle City Council Chair of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability committee. Tim is the Co-chair. These two, I believe, have the power to put some pressure on Diane Sugimura, the director of the DPD, close the loophole that allowed the alley skyscraper to be built, and put a leash on Dan Duffus and his company, Soleil Development, so he can’t continue abusing the permitting process (as outlined in the excellent article on posting #58 above).

    I wrote to Tim yesterday about this issue. I plan to write to Richard today. If just 12 more of us contact them, I think it could lead to some positive changes.

    Chair: Richard Conlin ([email protected]); 206-684-8805

    Co-chair: Tim Burgess ([email protected]); 206-684-8806

    About the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability committee (responsibilities, meeting times, members, etc.):
    http://www.seattle.gov/council/com_assign.htm#planning

    Wed, May 30 at 7:15 am
  81. Kevin said,

    As the author of the post referenced in Comment 58, I just thought I’d make a couple of points. This is a pattern for Dan Duffus. He secures properties, conceals the scope of his projects and deceives or lies outright to neighbors. He’s done it all over the city. It’s not NIMBYism to expect full disclosure about projects in your neighborhood. In my case, the house Duffus built now commands an unobstructed view into the backyards of houses that used to have some privacy. One can build beautiful modern housing in older neighborhoods without constructing out and out eyesores. Just down the street from the house that Duffus built, Grainger built a beautiful (and not small) modern home that respects the landscape and integrates well with the surrounding houses. Duffus, however, is a lowest common denominator builder of ugly monoliths. And he clearly is violating the spirit of the building code if not the exact letter of the regulations.

    Wed, May 30 at 8:38 am
  82. peter said,

    peter k.
    bravo
    writing, right now as you suggested.
    thx

    Wed, May 30 at 8:55 am
  83. Donn said,

    OK, that’s clear enough. As long as this thread continues there will be occasional challenges from developer apologists “it’s his legal right”, “that’s life in the big city”, etc. Just ignore it, anyone who wants to know the story can get it from preceding posts and if you keep taking the bait, they’ll keep you going around in circles.

    Is there anything that can be done about the present project? Or about about this scoundrel? Or about Planning & Development? Peter K.’s letters to the City Council look like a good step – the mayor’s more specifically responsible, I think, but likely the council may be more responsive. (I see O’Brien is on the relevant committee, and he’s historically more allied with McGinn than the rest, true? Maybe he’d be the one to wade into this with more of an intent to actually solve the problem.)

    Key word that comes up seems to be “density”, and the key point for that is that density can’t be just a cover for a developer enrichment program. That density is always going to cost us some things that we value, so an acceptable program to increase density has to be rigorously effective and well planned to minimize the losses. Not just loosening restraints on developers in general, so they can squeeze a house into a couple backyards for big profits and increase the neighborhood’s density by only one or two units.

    Wed, May 30 at 9:21 am
  84. peter said,

    GB/E30, I agree that these threads may have gotten off topic and I, myself, have raised concerns about architecture and aesthetics (though not about house colors or vegetation in walkways). However, you have confused these with the basic needs for light and air space. Seattle can get very hot in August and some people dislike air conditioners. I do thank you for helping me to focus on the important issues in my letters to Conlin/Burgess.

    Wed, May 30 at 9:47 am
  85. Donn said,

    And more on density – I believe there are a fair number of back yard dwellings around Wallingford, converted garages etc. Maybe it is a way to get some nontrivial increase in density. But they’re typically much smaller than this “under 1,400 sq ft” building, really only a fraction of that size, and that’s why you don’t hear about them. Whether you think the prevailing house size standard for modern living is ridiculous excess or an American’s inalienable right, it isn’t compatible with this backyard builder approach to greater density, and the city needs to understand that.

    Wed, May 30 at 11:32 am
  86. Peter K. said,

    Here’s a paragraph from a 2003 Puget Sound Business Journal article on Dan Duffus’ company, Soleil Development, that helps explain why there are three different players (two construction companies, plus Soleil Development) involved in this project:

    “The company [Soleil Development] functions as a developer of projects for a covey of about 10 builders. As a developer, the company acquires land for redevelopment, typically either paying 20 percent down or using another property as collateral for a zero down payment. Knoll and Duffus determine the best use for the site, then file for the necessary construction permits. Once the project is approved, Soleil sells the property to a builder for completion. For the builders, it’s a convenience that lets them focus on construction while maintaining a steady stream of work for their crews.”

    To read the rest of the article, see: http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/10/27/smallb1.html

    Wed, May 30 at 12:33 pm
  87. Kevin said,

    Just received a response from Richard Conlin. He says that Duffus does have a history of targeting lots that were subdivided prior to the current zoning laws, and that it’s “probably” legal for him to do what he is doing. He is looking into whether the city needs to close that loophole. Keep writing…

    Wed, May 30 at 1:11 pm
  88. Peter K. said,

    Just got a reply from City Councilman Richard Conlin:

    “Thanks for the note. It is my understanding that this developer has made a practice of looking for lots that were subdivided before current zoning was adopted, and then applying for permits based on those lot lines. We have had a similar issue in the Montlake neighborhood recently. This is legal under current City law, but I have asked DPD to let me know what steps would be needed to change this. As is often the case, changing the law would not help with the specific project that has raised these concerns, but may prevent similar such projects in the future. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and I regret having to let you know that this is probably a legal development under current regulations.”

    Wed, May 30 at 1:11 pm
  89. Mary said,

    After going through the comment threads, it seems the consensus is that a large number of Wallingford residents do not like anything that is not built to a craftsmen bungalow/farmhouse aesthetic especially with terms like “disgusting–an eyesore and an abomination” and “scoundrel” are being used. It seems that they want to change the building codes to mandate that all new structures in Wallingford adhere to this aesthetic. That is fine, people have every right to attempt that. The problem with that is where does it stop, do you also mandate the colors a house can be painted, the kinds of plants that can be planted, the height of your grass? Would it make you feel better if the building were clad in shingles or wood siding and the decorative wood supports under the eaves?
    I am no fan of PB Elemental’s style but if the builder has followed the zoning rules and building codes what can be said aside from the complaints in these posts and voicing your complaints to city council members.

    I have lived in Wallingford for 16+ years and it seems that every time a new house is built that is not fitting with the craftsmen mold then the ugly side of Wallingford shows up within these threads with people complaining about “not fitting in” and lack of privacy, fresh air, light, etc. I live in a 1912 Farmhouse and I can see into my neighbors’ yard and kitchen and they probably can into mine. That is what curtains and strategic landscaping are for. My neighbor across the alley from me is putting on and addition to her house currently, it will probably obscure the my view of the lake. There’s the offensive smell from another neighbors’ chicken coop that occasionally wafts over but they are within zoning laws and building codes so I take it as part of choosing to live here.

    I understand I live in a city with neighbors and other people and that it entails dealing with different points of views and different tastes even in architecture. That is part of what makes a city vibrant. And who is going to be the judge of what is “ugly” and “tasteless”? If we start dictating what kind of house other people build it’s going to be like the Disney town of Celebration, pretty on the surface but kind of fake.

    Wed, May 30 at 1:38 pm
  90. jason said,

    I agree. If you don’t like something than change the law and talk to your councilmembers. They were well within the law and did everything legally so I think it is a little late. I think it also says a lot that the builder cared enough about the community to talk with the reporter. I would think that if he was just planning on selling the house when they are done he would just keep quiet and finish the house mand then let you all be upset at the person who bought it.

    Wed, May 30 at 3:29 pm
  91. peter said,

    Mary, It is true that some of us, including myself, have mentioned architecture and aesthetics, but if you read the threads you will see that the fundamental issue is about space, air, and light. The only neighborhoods that I know of that have view rights are Blue Ridge and possibly View Ridge. Still, these are not the same as having air flow and ambient light blocked. No one said anything about grass or house colors except for the few who did not carefully read the posts.
    As noted by the doers on here, the city council will investigate the codes. You can be certain the city will not require you to paint your house beige with white trim, but they might some day consider a proposed property’s height and distance from your house if it can be shown that it will overshadow it, etc.

    Wed, May 30 at 3:42 pm
  92. Trent said,

    All the talk of “what color of beige” are just strawman arguments. No one has called for a homeowner’s association that measures your grass with a ruler. Trying to equate the outrage over what this developer has done to people complaining about their neighbor’s paint color is just a disingenuous means trying to equate a valid argument with an invalid one.

    As to “well within the law”…. How is creating a 1,050 sq ft lot in an area zoned for a MINIMUM lot size of 5,000 sq ft “well within the law”? Exploiting a tax parcel that hasn’t existed for nearly half a century to create an otherwise (and possible still) illegal micro-lot in a back yard doesn’t seem well within the law to me. It seems like this developer is skirting if not breaking the law.

    Wed, May 30 at 4:23 pm
  93. GB said,

    Regarding “strawman arguments”, where do you propose to draw the line? And comparison of “outrage over what this developer has done with people complaining about their neighbor’s paint color” . . . these are just degrees of annoyance resulting in complaints about what one doesn’t like. Neither end of the spectrum provide good arguments for what someone is or is not allowed to do.

    The only other valid argument I’ve seen here is that about space, air, and light, which figure hugely with regard to quality of life. The pity here may be that rights to those things may not be protected by our laws.

    Wed, May 30 at 5:00 pm
  94. Marley's Ghost said,

    I do not understand how this thing could be built. Some excerpts from DPD:

    “On lots 30 feet or less in width, the base height is
    limited to 25 feet…”
    “Required Front Yard: 20 feet or the average of the
    front yards of the single family residence on either side
    of your lot, whichever is less”
    “Required Rear Yard: 25 feet, or 20 percent of lot
    depth (minimum of 10 feet) whichever is less.”
    “Required Side Yard: 5 feet. 10 feet for street facing
    side yard of a reversed corner lot.”

    Normal lot coverage limits of 35% max coverage do not even seem to kick in because the lot is so small. Regardless, after all the deductions, how is there anything left for someone to build on a 1000 sq ft lot?

    It seems like DPD messed up if the average height is taller than 25 feet or the setbacks are not honored. Based on what has been said above, it does not sound like there was an existing structure. Regardless DPD should not allow a non-conformity to be increased.

    Wed, May 30 at 5:42 pm
  95. coolio said,

    re woodland park ave n.. beautiful older home with porch and bricks and yard.. to be replaced w/ 2 buildings-row houses- 3 and 2 residences and parking for 7.
    Think there will be any trees or yard?

    Wed, May 30 at 5:42 pm
  96. coolio said,

    well 2 more thoughts:
    1.) write Yelp reviews on Soleil
    2.) send pictures of the breaking of rules as posted by Marley to Mayor, his minions and all in DPD. Invit ethem to review how this fits. Ask fo ra stop work order.

    Wed, May 30 at 5:48 pm
  97. Marley's Ghost said,

    For a 30 x 35 foot lot, this appears to allow a home with a footprint of 5 ft by 20 ft!!!

    DPD has some great people, but they also have some many would consider a Duffus…

    … wait…

    Wed, May 30 at 6:14 pm
  98. Anne Droid said,

    Perhaps we could work on something akin to building codes in St. Petersburg, from which I stole the following:

    Floor Area Ratio (“FAR”) is the measurement of intensity of building development of a site. A floor area ratio is the relationship between gross floor area on a site and the gross land area. The FAR is calculated by adding together the gross floor area of all buildings on the site and dividing the sum by the gross land area. For example, a floor area ratio of 1.0 means one (1) square foot of building may be constructed for every one (1) square foot of lot area

    So we could request a specific “FAR” for new construction for the future.

    Wed, May 30 at 6:41 pm
  99. Mary said,

    Aren’t there current setback requirements, maximum height and lot coverage percentage restrictions already in the building codes for SF5000 lots that are supposedly in place to help maintain space, air and light? It may be different for micro lots like the builder’s. Should we propose that setbacks be made larger and the maximum heights shorter, and lot coverage smaller than they are now? I think a lot of people’s houses, recent remodels and additions would violate the new requirements if they were to pass.

    The point is not what color of beige to paint your house. That was used as example on as GB states “where do you do you propose we draw the line”. I don’t know but I keep seeing the terms out of character with the neighborhood, privacy, space, air and light used in the threads. I just wonder if the reaction would have been so strong if it was a cute little craftsmen bungalow that was built there or would it have been just as strong if a 2-story “modernist” structure were being built.

    Wed, May 30 at 7:00 pm
  100. AD said,

    100 comments on this! We are officially out of problems.

    GB and Mary are right, and I have to think the majority of people living in this great neighborhood agree. They just have better things to do than post on blogs, me included.

    Property owners have property rights and if people want a homogeneous housing community where the collective determines style then they should move to developments with these types of rules in place.

    Preserving these rights are important, in the same way we should preserve the right to paint your house any color or put an Occupy Seattle tent in your front yard for a year. This is what makes the neighborhood great. If you don’t like it then leave, but don’t encourage slander or arson.

    I can’t wait for the uproar when the development on 46th and Meridian gets finished. A five story boarding house with 10 rooms on each floor and no parking, and no notice of land use. All within code and legal.

    The neighborhood is changing, but that is okay.

    If only the community could rally behind a real cause, we could really make a difference.

    Wed, May 30 at 7:07 pm
  101. coolio said,

    Marvelous AD” if you don’t like it LEAVE”

    Why not and what is wrong with gathering, checking building codes, restrictions, laws, regulations and asking fo rcompliance? Nothing. Positive group action to maintain code and compliance .. nto demanding everythhing be beige.. just comliance within already established LAW.

    There is nothing wrong with that.

    Wed, May 30 at 7:12 pm
  102. peter said,

    AD,
    you need to read the posts. I assure you that the city council will have no sympathy for persons who want to preserve a neighborhood’s character at the expense of the rights of individuals. So no worries. But please read the posts as to the issues that council members have already responded to, thanks to your neighbors.

    also, you have no idea what the people who write on this post do for a living or why they “take the time” to write, so saying that other people have better things to do is rude.

    I am out of here and this list serve. Getting a bit too vitriolic for my taste. Unless I hear from the council members or the Wally neighbors who have achieved something in response to these threads, I will be spending my endless time fighting the proposed running of 18 coal trains a day in front of my house. This is your federal government and Burlington Northern at work, but of course this is not something you have to worry about.

    Wed, May 30 at 7:49 pm
  103. Nancy M said,

    Are you the peter in 71. ?

    Wed, May 30 at 8:02 pm
  104. Kevin said,

    I have to admit to being a bit disgusted by recent posts, and this will be my last. Apparently, it’s just fine for some people in this neighborhood to accept a project I believe to be predicated on a developer deceiving a neighbor into authorizing a sale of a piece of property that resulted in the loss of her privacy and a significant amount of property value… losses shared by a group of surrounding neighbors. “It’s okay,” says AD, apparently clueless despite dozens of other comments that attempted to explain the specific nature and chronology of events. “If you don’t like it, leave.” As if anything that happens in this neighborhood should be accepted without question, simply because “the neighborhood is changing.” This is not about aesthetics, it’s about a small group of people losing privacy and property value because of the calculated selfishness of someone who couldn’t care less. Legal? Maybe. Acceptable? Not by me, and not by a majority of your neighbors, AD, when they know the whole story. A story you choose to flippantly dismiss as not a “real cause.” Too bad for you. I honestly hope that you’re not next…

    Wed, May 30 at 8:15 pm
  105. Shannon said,

    Shannon here from the original story submission. There’s been good dialogue and ideas shared the last five days. Thank you for your interest/action.

    Many of us are working several angles to make an impact on future city decisions/codes with outreach to city officials and the media…keep it up. I’d like to find out about your potential interest in staying in contact after this thread grows cold.

    If you’re interested, send me at note at [email protected] with your name (and “nickname” in thread, if different), email address and characterize your interest as A) keep me informed of developments, B) call on me to take action (attend a meeting, write a letter, contact someone), and/or C) call on me to be interviewed or share further perspective. I will use your contact info only for this purpose and will continue to keep your information private unless you grant permission otherwise.

    This outreach doesn’t replace the discussion on this thread but could supplement it if things heat up with current outreach efforts.

    Who knows if there are other lots in Wallingford that fall under this historic context (the former owner of 5501 Kensington didn’t know anything about it and he lived there for over 30 years)…but I’d rather we do something about it ourselves before Duffus or another developer creates another Alley Skyscraper or Backyard Watchtower. I’ll be focusing my energy on that issue…making it difficult for developers with bad intentions to take advantage of land use loopholes like this one.

    Wed, May 30 at 8:28 pm
  106. Sandy said,

    That builder knew exactly what he was doing. Nothing should be allowed to be built there but a tree house (in a tree) He looked long and hard for that “loop hole”
    Our neighborhood has turned into a traffic jam already, now here is another example of the crap we will have to continue to put up with.
    Noned of our beautiful houses should be allowed to be torn down and monster houses built.
    And as for an aged house, go to England, or anywhere in Europe, and you will probably stay in or buy a 1,600 year old house…that hasn’t fallen down, and will not be falling down any time soon…
    I agree, these people NEED to move somewhere else, ruin someone else’s neighborhood!

    Thu, May 31 at 1:41 am
  107. Lloyd said,

    Just a suggestion,perhaps a meeting with the mayor is needed to discuss a solution with him involved. I think he would attend.

    Thu, May 31 at 7:17 am
  108. DOUG. said,

    If anyone here would like to meet with Mayor McGinn, he’s holding a public forum in Laurelhurst on Saturday morning (information HERE).

    Thu, May 31 at 8:19 am
  109. Harrison said,

    I was happy to see a regular gable style structure going up. Density growth is unavoidable as time goes on but style is another factor. Putting a modern structure among older craftsman style homes would be a terrible site but the straight gable this builder used is a good fit even if it is tight.

    Thu, May 31 at 10:16 am
  110. Marley's Ghost said,

    @Anne Droid, Mary & AD: The existing codes are cited in item 94. There are limits on lot coverage, which maxes out at 35% for a SF5000 lot. For lots smaller than 5000 sq ft, code says max lot coverage is 1000 sq ft plus 15% of the lot area – apparently not anticipating lots of 1050 sq ft. It appears only setbacks might apply, which still should be enough to void such a structure.

    Reference DPD CAM 220 for more information. I do not know the dimensions of the lot, nor its relationship to adjacent lots, but it does not seem that the building meets code, especially for height which appears to be limited to 25 feet base height.

    Read the code. Petition DPD with a thorough and rational argument citing the CAM and the underlying ordinance. Bug Director Sugimura and your council reps. Be relentless! Unfortunately at this point it will be an uphill battle because DPD is incredibly fearful of being sued by an army of developer lawyers for admitting to any errors that cost the developer money even though the developer likely knew he was trying to pull one over DPD.

    Thu, May 31 at 10:55 am
  111. Marley's Ghost said,

    There also appears to be a clause that says any new building on the grandfathered lot cannot extend onto adjacent property, or even the adjacent lot that it used to be a part of.

    Thu, May 31 at 10:59 am
  112. Marc T. (Big T) said,

    And now, on to the lawsuit.

    Just discovered an ongoing King County Superior Court lawsuit against Dan Duffus and the city of Seattle. A couple in Interbay/Queen Anne is suing because Duffus did the exact same thing to them that he’s doing to our neighborhood. (They’ve included the city in the lawsuit, because the Department of Planning and Development allowed Duffus to do it.)

    For those who haven’t been following, Dan Duffus (and his company Soleil Development) is NOT the builder of the alley skyscraper (Steele Granger is the builder). Duffus is the doofus developer who finagled an exception to the building code that allowed this behemoth to be built on a tiny, 1,050 square-foot *backyard* lot.

    The lawsuit paperwork shows how Duffus works these deals (he finds long-forgotten, historic property divisions, then petitions the city to let him build on them without conforming to modern size-and-scale building codes). The paperwork also shows how willing the DPD (especially Andrew S. McKim of the DPD) is to grant these exceptions. Even better, the paperwork provides a roadmap for anyone interested in suing Duffus for doing this to our neighborhood (and all the other neighborhoods he’s preyed upon).

    How about it: Will you be the one to do Seattle-area homeowners a favor and finally take Duffus down?

    See the lawsuit paperwork here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/95494861

    Thu, May 31 at 5:03 pm
  113. peter said,

    I think I am addicted to this site. It is very difficult to leave.

    I recall growing up in NYC and hearing many people use the term Duffus in a “not-too-flattering way”, so I just wanted to make sure that it was not an east coast thing.

    Urban Dictionary defines Duffus as a

    name for the worst people in existence, also name for XXXXX or something thats
    broken.

    duffuswww.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=duffusCached –

    I realize this is just a coincidence.

    Thu, May 31 at 6:49 pm
  114. Kevin said,

    #112 Big T

    Thanks for the reference to the current lawsuit against Dan Duffus. It appears this pattern of questionable acquisition has been this developer’s M.O. for years. The lawsuit describes a scenario that not only mirrors the case at 5501 Kensington, but also the property case described in Post #58 from 2009. Keep writing the city council and the mayor, people. The time has come for us to stop this predatory behavior once and for all.

    Thu, May 31 at 7:31 pm
  115. Anne Droid said,

    #112 Big T

    Thank you for your research and sharing it here.

    #114 Kevin
    Will write.

    Thu, May 31 at 11:50 pm
  116. abigail said,

    When i moved here in ’79, we had a yard next to our house full of fruit trees and magnificent cedars on the south side of the property. We grew herbs and vegetables. Ten years later a new, entrepreneurial owner bought, for $10,000, a variance so that he could sell the land as a buildable lot. He sold that land for $95,000.

    There is now a ‘skinny house”, architect designed, on this “lot” very close to our house. It blocks the south light from what used to be our gardens and its hard surfaces are our view now.The sounds from I-5 and the schoolyard echo off it into our windows.

    When we lose trees and gardens, we lose their beauty and we also lose their air purifying qualities and the sound barriers they provide. This is no small loss to the neighborhood. When the trees came down our neighbors gathered to mourn the loss.

    The upside is that we now have two of the finest neighbors one could wish for. I give thanks for them and i mourn for the yard that gave everyone who passed it such pleasure.

    Fri, June 1 at 11:59 pm
  117. WHR said,

    Personally, I am disgusted by this development. Curious about Steele Granger, I looked up Steele on the internet. Coincidentally, it lists his residence as yet another home that was literally sandwiched between two homes and taking up the entire lot (in Kirkland this time). It appears his neighbors could literally knock on his window based on google earth. I am seeing a trend here. If you ask me, he is obviously just trying to make another quick buck with no regard for what really matters in many regards. That said, everyone involved in this transaction should be questioning their moral compass.

    Sun, June 3 at 7:14 pm
  118. Tangletown.Is.Neighborly said,

    I could not disagree more with some of these above comments. I’m astounded. How can we talk about the friendly vibe of Wallingford/Tangletown that we all love while be so mean-hearted to our new neighbors. The article says the young couple building the home will be living there themselves and I am ashamed as a Tangletown resident of how, well, rude these comments are towards our new neighbors – you all know they must be reading this thread quite closely. I’m sure they would love to have a big lot like a lot like a lot of ours where they could build a craftsman style home, and I’m sure they would like less stairs in their house, but instead of the rude rich yuppies you all are painting them to be, from reading the article it sounds like they are actually just a young couple who could not afford a bigger lot. Don’t you think we should come down of our high horses and cut them a break. For all we know these might be the nicest, neighbors we could imagine as abigail said above, let’s give them a chance before you all accuse them of being the devil. I sure you’ve all made them a bit more reluctant to bring cookies around when they move in after someone accused them of being peeping toms, my goodness. I don’t see why everyone thinks they are some how entitled to the use of this property. You expect the owners of this lot to buy it and just plant trees for all of your enjoyment? I don’t see any of you doing that with your lots. No, we all have built homes to live in a wonderful neighborhood with great neighbors. Let’s set aside our own personal opinions about architecture and and BE KIND. After reading these comments I do not see how any of you are in any position to point fingers about unneighborly conduct.

    Sun, June 3 at 8:37 pm
  119. SeattleAlan said,

    Tangletown.Neighborly person, please, plug yourself into reality.
    Many of us have worked hard to afford a nice house in the Wallingford neighborhood. This new construction, if you read the posting thoroughly, along with the links, is done through screwing around with the zoning regulations, etc. that the rest of us have followed closely. My own remodel was held to setbacks and limits that this weird construction project didn’t pay heed to at all. All to make a construction wank money by placing an ugly, obtrusive “house” in the middle of a nice neighborhood. I venture that you wouldn’t like having a tower built just outside your back yard any more than the rest of us would. If someone can’t “afford” a lot in Wallingford, perhaps they could afford a lot and a nice home in a neighborhood maybe a little further away. It is all a developer-builder greed equation, don’t pretend it isn’t anything else. And I am sure that whoever moves in will be welcomed, and brought cookies or donuts from Mighty-O. The point of many of these comments are to keep future vulture-developers from screwing with our neighborhood any further. Sorry, but I like the look of our neighborhood as it is. Not a jumbled mess if further “houses” like this are jammed in any available space.

    Sun, June 3 at 10:05 pm
  120. Shannon said,

    Several of us spoke this week with owners of a house in Queen Anne that was similarly impacted by the work of Dan Duffus. They’re the ones with the lawsuit against Duffus, Soleil Development, and the City. The photos they sent are jarring, and their story is disappointingly similar to the Tangletown project. Here are a few points that we heard, condensed and summarized in our own words:

    – The three story house that went up and is looming over their backyard has been a living nightmare. It’s significantly impacted their property, their privacy, their community and their quality of life.
    – The issue started with a letter in their neighbor’s mailbox from a developer looking to buy their lot (with the real intention of subdividing it into a substandard lot using a loophole in the land use code.) Duffus’s team later told their neighbors that the house would become their new home and they would consider building something in the backyard also for family. However, it was all a ruse to get their neighbors to sell the property to them under market value. Duffus never had any intention of living on this property but instead was out to make as much money as he could at the community’s expense.
    – The Queen Anne family contacted Dan Duffus before his construction started to discuss other options for development, and he refused to meet with them. He claimed that his brother Andy Duffus owned the property (even though the public records did not show that), and that they needed to deal with him. Andy Duffus met with them, and in response to their plea for him to build a smaller scale home more in keeping with the 2200 sf substandard lot, he basically explained that he “felt bad” but he needed to make money on the property and was going to build as big a home as he could to return his “investment.” Andy Duffus then had the gall to email the QA family and tried to extort their predicament by asking them to “buy in” and pay him $100,000 to only build a 2 story house instead of the planned 35 foot 3 story structure.
    – The demolition started as Duffus bulldozed down hedges and trees (including a 30’ cedar evergreen, 20’ plum and 40’ ginkgo) and progressed with plans to build a monolith on a tiny lot that didn’t meet minimum lot size requirements (if not for this historical exception loophole).
    – They believe Duffus does these kinds of projects all the time. The neighborhoods and community he impacts mean nothing to him, and he hides under the promotion of “green” construction (how can tearing down 50 year old trees be green?) and belief in “density”. He works the system, knows the code and has relationships with people in the DPD who enable him to get these projects done and find the allowable configuration of his construction based on the existing loophole. In fact, his team of resources has an assembly line type process looking for properties where they can make big money. They contact the DPD (like code interpreter Andy McKim) who help them find the loophole in the tax records where they can apply the exception to the minimum lot size. Then they purchase, subdivide, and sell off the small properties to construction companies to build massive homes (up to 35 feet height) with all the exceptions to setbacks so there is little yard or green space surrounding.
    – The DPD’s role is to interpret the land use code. In their lawsuit against Duffus, Soleil Development, and the City, the couple argues that the land use interpretation of this loophole is wrong, inaccurate, does not represent the language of the code, and inappropriately allows construction of oversized houses that are completely disproportionate to their surroundings — to the benefit of the developer.

    Ironically, on the Soleil Development homepage they quote: “We are committed to sustainable practices, restoring and rehabbing existing properties and innovative designs that are in keeping with the character of a neighborhood.” There is nothing in character to the neighborhood about what and how they build.

    The work we do as a community to help change the code will reduce the chances of this happening in the future. This kind of development on lots too small to build on is not solving our density problem and is destroying the trees and beauty of our neighborhoods. This loophole has gone unchecked for too long and must change.

    The lawsuit document posted above at #112 tells more about their story.

    After the conversation, we feel even more passionate about the fact that we don’t want this to happen in our neighborhood again. Please write the mayor (http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/citizen_response.htm), head of the Dept of Planning and Development ([email protected]), Sally Clark ([email protected]) and other city council members (especially [email protected] and [email protected]). And email me at [email protected] if you’d like to be kept informed about the issue and want to hear additional ways we can make an impact.

    Mon, June 4 at 5:54 am
  121. Kevin said,

    Unreal, Shannon. I will write again today. The more we learn about this project, the worse it gets…

    Mon, June 4 at 7:02 am
  122. well, said,

    well A D and Ta ngletown IS Neighborly think differently.
    Write
    Write re Skanksa
    call
    send photos

    find out where Dufus really lives and take photos… do you think its in a condensed unprivate lot?
    NO He does this tomake money to buy his own privacy. Nail him on this also

    Mon, June 4 at 8:04 am
  123. WHR said,

    Thank you, Shannon. Greatly appreciate your due diligence and information sharing. I will be sure to write the City and will encourage every resident on my block to do the same. We need to take action to prevent this from happening again.

    Mon, June 4 at 10:23 am
  124. Barb said,

    Speaking of bulldozing trees, If you want to help put some teeth in Seattle and King County regulations protecting trees and our tree canopy, attend the organizing meeting and fundraiser for the political action committee TreePAC, supported by Plant Amnesty. It’s Thursday, June 14, at 6:30 pm on Queen Anne. Look here for details: http://www.plantamnesty.org/EVENTS/events.aspx

    Mon, June 4 at 11:01 am
  125. SeriouslyDisappointed said,

    The bottomline with this project is the builder has the right to develop the property. Be thankful he is building green and creating jobs. He’s not looking to make money; rather, move his family into this (so-I-thought) charming Seattle neighborhood which DEFINITELY has it’s array of styles, sizes, shapes, colors and idea of upkeep. It may not be your favorite home on the block, or in all of Wallingford, and it’s your right to take action against it happening again, but no need to judge, assume, or personally attack the builder and his family. After all, it doesn’t sound like anyone knows him and, aside from the reporter, it seems no one has tried to personally get in touch with him. Every story has two sides and he seems to be taking the high road because I didn’t see any tacky signs on the construction site.
    My family is new to the area and our “hate it” is living among so much outrage and threat… people so quick to accuse and name call. We are Seattle natives, but finally understand the Seattle Freeze.

    Tue, June 5 at 12:18 pm
  126. Trent said,

    Apparently the developer says he’s going to move his family in to all the Alley Skyscrapers he builds. Anyone who believe he’s going to move into this one is a fool. And no, he doesn’t have a right to develop this property in violation of zoning laws.

    Tue, June 5 at 12:59 pm
  127. Kevin said,

    #125

    This problem began when this developer deceived a neighbor to acquire the necessary quit claim deed, just as he did in the Queen Anne case he is currently fighting in court (see post #120). In my humble opinion, everything that happened after that deception should be reversible. Although the contractor on the back lot purchased that parcel from the developer, your sympathies are misplaced. Please try to consider how this happened from the beginning, and compare it to the cases involved in posts #58 and #120 above. That’s why we are questioning his “right” to proceed.

    Tue, June 5 at 1:21 pm
  128. SeattleAlan said,

    Dear Disappointed: Read the rest of the posts. How would you feel if you lived directly next door and this greedy developer whacked back your tree and built a 3 story tower next to your home? This is a developer that trolls through the books downtown, looking for places where he can exploit odd zoning layouts that should have been changed decades ago, all at the expense of people that made their homes in a neighborhood with a look and feel they wanted to live in – not a neighborhood with 3 story towers where a garage might be. There’s no problem judging or assuming what was done with bad intent, ’cause it probably was. Read the earlier posts and the lawsuit against him. Not a “good neighbor” by any stretch of the imagination.

    Tue, June 5 at 1:49 pm
  129. Anne Droid said,

    This developer’s loophole pattern is to buy an ‘historic’ or odd-parcel lot and then build. We need to change/demand enforcement of whatever building codes and zoning laws that pertain to building on such sites.

    Sharon, thank you so much for your hard work in investigating this guy further. Perhaps now would be a good time to take this story to the main-stream media, if this has not already been done.

    Tue, June 5 at 3:03 pm
  130. No Kidding said,

    well Alan, Seriously Disappointed is likely a troll, the developed himself, or the tree hacker, or likes 3 story towers adjacent to neighbors.. people slide along into info without reading, just to type comments disparaging others without thought.

    Tue, June 5 at 4:12 pm
  131. SeriouslyDisappointed said,

    I thought the sign said “Love it or Hate It” BUT apparently this blog doesn’t welcome people to share unless one is willing to commiserate and support the “hate it” POV. Good to know. Good luck.

    Tue, June 5 at 5:19 pm
  132. a said,

    Thanks for this report Wallyhood! I’ve written to the mayor and Diane Sugimura, and I am going to email some Seattle Times, Stranger and Weekly reporters in the hopes that the whole city can be made aware of the city bending the law in favor of developers and away from zoning restrictions. I think the city’s actions are the real story here, and keeping the focus there will be the most productive outlook. There will always be non-moral people out to make a buck any way they can. The job of government is to protect its citizens against them. If anyone closely affected (not me) is willing to talk to the press, I strongly encourage you to call the Times, KUOW, KOMO or where ever else you would like to see it reported. This is a good story.

    Tue, June 5 at 9:18 pm
  133. Anne Rasmussen said,

    Again I’ll say Agenda21. It’s not just a Wallingford, Seattle, Wa. State, or USA issue, it’s a world issue. Duffus? Who does Duffus work for? I think a lot of well intended people may have been mislead. It’s OK to change your mind, (even if money was involved) after all you may not have been told all the facts. I hope everyone does a little research, it’ll all start making sense, as you look around you. YouTube has many good videos on the subject, weather you are Democrat or Republican. I personally believe, this no longer makes a difference. Also look up info. about Bilderberg Meeting held in Virginia, this past weekend. It’s all connected, six degrees, people and problems. Love&Peace,Anne

    Wed, June 6 at 1:19 am
  134. Neighbor2You said,

    The exchange of views here specific to the proposed development is extremely informative, so first, I want to say thanks for that.

    But I’ve been thinking lately that neighborhood blogs are a relatively new communication forum, invaluable in lots of ways, but also unknown turf in others. They’re not “journalism,” so one can post just about anything, whether fact or opinion. As a reader, I have to assign a large grain of salt sometimes, and do my own fact-checking on the side.

    I’m a bit worried about how blogs can approach what we might call slander in journalism, and I wonder if we might agree to avoid doing that here. If one really thinks a public employee is also on the payroll of a private company, I think it’s better to pursue that with the Ethics Commission rather than hinting at misconduct in a neighborhood blog. The latter doesn’t require taking any responsibility, nor does it lead to any resolution.

    Similarly, I’d ask that we not allege identity or intent, either directly, or by implying who other posters are or what their interests may be. “If you disagree with me, you’re likely employed by the opposition….”

    It’s damaging enough when this happens in a public meeting–and it certainly does–but at least that’s in the open and can be addressed to some degree.

    But in a blog, I can, theoretically, “allege” just about anything about another person’s posts, while also knowing there’s really nothing they can do in response. I don’t see how that helps our discussion or helps us live together as neighbors.

    I think we’re better than that. Yeah, sometimes I wish everyone agreed with me about an issue, but I live in this area because ultimately, I appreciate that they don’t. Let’s keep the discussion lively, truthful, factual (when possible), and civil.

    Thanks, everyone.

    Wed, June 6 at 7:13 am
  135. Donn said,

    Regarding possible misconduct of public employees, I hope we would NOT agree to keep quiet about that here. For sure, it’s a delicate matter, but if there’s anything particularly scurrilous directed at a public employee in the above 134 posts, I couldn’t find it. Meanwhile, as “a” says right above, the city’s disposition to act in the interests of its citizens is a major part of this discussion, and what I read in the discussion about that is a clear picture of the process that just happens to raise some doubts about certain DPD staff. This perspective is essential to raise our level of awareness about how things work down there, and what needs to change.

    Wed, June 6 at 8:46 am
  136. twisted ankles said,

    SETBACKS! When we built a 5 foot porch into the backyard off our house we had to have a legal survey done to assure that we didn’t encroach on the “backyard set-back” (20 feet if memory serves). I’ve seen this new “house”. It has neither a frontyard, backyard, or sideyard set back. Sure, it’s a legal lot, but it still has a setback requirment. Surprised (am I?) it got past the building permit phase. Maybe I’ll build something in our parking strip…

    I’ll bet the fire department’s having a hissy-fit also. It will make for interesting fire supression.

    Wed, June 20 at 2:51 pm
  137. Ann S said,

    Duffus strikes again! Drive by 41st and 1st Ave NW to see more of his handiwork. And the developer will NOT live there. That’s what they told the family that sold them the house acrossed the street that they subdivived and squeezed into our nieghborhood.

    Fri, June 22 at 11:56 am
  138. Shannon said,

    This week, we heard from concerned neighbors in Laurelhurst who says Duffus is doing the same thing in their neighborhood that he’s doing here: Sneaking in a home based on a boundary lot adjustment and getting an approved permit before neighbors had an inkling of what was happening. They were shocked to see bulldozers show up and start ripping down trees, then a foundation poured for a three-story tower, on a lot that was never intended as a buildable lot.

    Write to [email protected] and [email protected] and ask that they expedite the process to close this historic loophole.

    Fri, June 22 at 3:33 pm
  139. Anne Droid said,

    Thank you, Shannon for the info.

    Close the loophole.

    Contact mainstream media on Duffus operations: Kirkland, Interbay, Wallingford and Laurelhurst so far.

    Fri, June 22 at 3:57 pm
  140. Nancy M said,

    Assuming this project is a done deal (and perhaps the last in the Duffus pattern), let’s find a buyer who wants to immediately renovate it back to neighborhood scale. Talk about heroic! Perks will include great grateful neighbors, great neighborhood, nearby bus and public school . . .

    Fri, June 22 at 8:33 pm
  141. common sense said,

    has anyone considered wirting to I think its KOMo, Ask jesse? The tv show which goes into depth about an inappropriate or unfortunate situation?

    Sat, June 23 at 3:48 pm
  142. Andrew E said,

    To the Kensington Neighborhood,

    We on Blaine Street and Boyer Ave are currently fighting off the next Duffus development. It was both encouraging and disappointing at the same time. In reading the comments, we appear to have tried many of the same things you have tried.
    1. The development we are concerned with is exactly the same MO as you have seen go up. They bought a house which in 1930 was two separate tax lots. Since that time – they were listed and considered one tax parcel
    2. Using the exact same exceptions – Duffus created two lots, called the front yard of the original house – the side yard, and used every trick in the book shoe horn this house in.
    3. We found out Mr. Andrew McKim wrote an opinion letter which supported this case – without any public review.
    4. We have had response from DPD, but it has taken a number of pleas and speaking in front of the Mayor
    5. Today – we got Komo to do a story on this development – so we did ask Jesse – but we did get a reporter out here and she spent a fair amount of time with us.

    If any of you could contact Michelle Esteban of KOMO and give her some back up of what you have gone through – that may help put more pressure on DPD/ Mayors office to stop this guy and his loop-holes. After this type of pressure – I believe our options may be legal in nature.

    Please see below and our Face Book page.

    Good luck and thank you for the blog

    http://www.facebook.com/BlaineStreetPreservation

    Wed, June 27 at 10:23 pm
  143. common sense said,

    right on right on way to go andrew!!!!!!

    Thu, June 28 at 10:46 am
  144. Laura in Fremont said,

    Welcome to our world, folks. Duffus did this to our street a year and a half ago, and nothing we did, nothing, helped or stopped him. We have lost light and privacy, and have a three-story structure towering over our block here in Fremont. The man really does have DPD in his pocket. Unless and until the underlying loopholes in the law are changed, he’s legal, the builder is legal. We get to grieve the loss of our neighborhoods’ distinctive looks.

    Wed, July 4 at 3:50 pm
  145. Andrew E said,

    Hats off to Shannon and Peter of the Wallingford Neighborhood, as well as fellow Seattleites from Fremont, Queen Anne, Laurelhurst and Montlake. We were involved in a very productive meeting which introduced each other, shared experiences of the development pattern we are faced with, and developed action items.

    I was very pleased that we did not simply rant and rave, but came up with a list of strategies to combat the specific development – but most importantly agreed these loopholes and Tax Parcel Treasure Hunts MUST stop.

    We need to force change in a set of specific code revisions. Shannon will post notes for all and we encourage all of you to help out.

    Blaine Street is not giving up – though I believe the Dozers are here next week. I came away encouraged about closing this practice down

    Andrew Engel

    Fri, July 6 at 9:01 pm
  146. Shannon said,

    Just when we thought the Alley Skyscraper couldn’t get any worse, we find today that they are jacking up the roof to make the darn thing even TALLER. It seems there were some problems with the original framing/construction that may have made the third floor ceilings too low to fit the standards for occupancy (an issue when you try to squeeze a three-story living space on a 1,050 sf lot and cut corners to save money on construction).

    Unfortunately for Steele, the building can only be 30′ tall so neighbors (and hopefully inspectors) will be watching closely to make sure the building conforms to the height limit. Come by and see the mess for yourself. Imagine the expense and impact to “quality construction” by having the roof jacked up after the building was framed, roofed, and wired.

    Wed, July 11 at 3:39 pm

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