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.
- Dan and team have cut a tree that resides on a neighbor’s property nearly in half, with no notification to the neighbor.
- 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,
- 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.