Courtesy of Weinstein A|U
A rendering of Compass Housing Alliance's Urness House for formerly homeless individuals, which looks likely to move forward after June 14 State Environmental Policy Act and Design Review meetings.

Despite concerns, Urness House likely to get green light

Urness House, Compass Housing Alliance's 80-unit Ballard development for formerly homeless men and women, appears ready to move forward after back-to-back, standing-room only State Environmental Protection Act and Design Review meetings June 14.

The seven-story Urness House, to be located at 1753 N.W. 56th St., will offer housing for chronically homeless individuals earning less than $8,000 per year. There will also be onsite services, such as mental health clinics, substance abuse clinics and triage services. Click here to learn more about Urness House policies.

Lisa Rutzick, Seattle Department of Planning and Development project manager for Urness House, said it is unusual to have a public State Environmental Protection Act meeting, but the amount of interest raised by the project warranted one.

Ballardite's voiced concerns about negative impacts by Urness House on parking, safety and property values.

Urness House includes 11 parking spaces to be mainly used by staff members. Compass Housing Alliance Executive Director Rick Friedhoff said almost none of the residents will own a vehicle and most workers will take public transportation.

Dave Jarrell, a Ballard property and business owner, said he is concerned about safety because it is not just homeless people but homeless people with serious problems that will be living there.

Ballard resident Mike Yamaguchi said he is worried about sex offenders living in Urness House and the development drawing more homeless people to the area.

Shane Fitzgerald said he has not been able to sell his house in Kirkland for the past two years because it is across the street from low-income housing where there are bimonthly visits from the police.

Dennis Mashek said housing the homeless is a noble cause, but there are too many questions about the project left unanswered.

"This may have been done elsewhere, but it hasn't been done in Ballard," he said.

But, the positive public comments outweighed the negative nearly two to one, with many Ballardites welcoming Urness House and expressing appreciation for the diversity and affordable housing it will bring.

"We have a homeless situation in Ballard, and we don't have the support from the city needed," said Beth Miller, Ballard Chamber of Commerce executive director.

She said Urness House will be able to support its residents as well as conduct outreach to homeless people in Ballard.

"I think it's just right for us," 65-year Ballard resident Sylvia Vikingsfad said. "Don't we all want decent housing?"

Friedhoff said studies show Urness House will not hurt property values, and the 24-hour staff will contribute to the safety of the neighborhood.

"I've been at Compass Housing for 14, years," he said. In none of those instances where we provide housing has it occurred that there has been a rise in crime in the neighborhood."

M.J. Kiser, Compass Housing Alliance program director, said many Compass employees live, work and shop in Ballard and are familiar with the neighborhood.

"We're not moving folks into your community," she said. "We're moving folks into our community."

Rutzick said she didn't hear anything during the meeting that would require a full State Environmental Protection Act review, which usually deals with issues such as air quality, historic preservation, noise and traffic, meaning the project is likely to be given a determination of nonsignificance.

The project was also given the go-ahead by the Northwest Design Review Board in the second meeting of the evening.

Though some residents expressed concerns over the size, layout and orientation of the building, the Design Review Board agreed that the building makes the best of its mid-block location, knowing that the east and west sides of the building are likely to be covered when neighborhood sites are developed.

Urness House is laid out like a sideways H. Apartments are orientated with windows on the north and south sides on the top five stories. There are light wells on the east and west sides. The first two floors where there will be a lobby and office and clinic space are mostly windows and glass.

The project is set back from the property line and built 10 feet below the 85-foot height limit. It includes trees and plantings in front of the building and a green roof with a rooftop deck.

Access to the garage for parking, deliveries and trash pickup will be through the alley on the south side of the building.

The board agreed that the design's color scheme of blue and orange is unique for the neighborhood but it works and could turn the building into a neighborhood reference point.

The board asked Weinstein A|U, architects for the project, to look at adding some wall seating in front of the building, more permeability through the street-side planing strip and the addition of bicycle parking in front of the building.

For more details on the design of Urness House, download the Weinstein A|U presentation attached to this article.

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June 14 SEPA Meeting

I have been a Ballard resident for 24 years. I was at that meeting last night along with what felt like half of
Compass Housing Alliance's employees. Between them and the members of various Lutheran churches bussed in by their pastors, I felt I was at a church revival. Compass did a good job of stacking the audience and they have had a lot of practice doing it -- thus the positive comments outweighing the negative 2 to 1. Compass say they live in Ballard -- not true. Not one of the Compass employees speaking at the meeting said they lived in Ballard, nor did MJ Kiser, nor did Rick Friedhoff.
Compass has again changed the description of the facility -- how can the City allow passage of treatment facility for the homeless without knowing what the facility will actually consist of? This project belongs in a light commercial district, it does not belong in the heart of downtown Ballard. And to Beth Miller -- Good luck filling Ballard's empty storefronts with this facility right around the corner. I know I will not be shopping and/or dining in downtown Ballard, I will take my business elsewhere.

good for Ballard, help and hope conquer fear re: Urness House

Even though I caught only the Design Review part of Monday's meeting about Urness House, I'm glad to hear that the compassionate voices prevailed. Putting a roof over the head of a formerly homeless individual is often the first step toward reclaiming one's dignity as a human being. Giving 80 people the opportunity to begin that reclamation here in Ballard may redeem us all a little bit.

Time for Ballardites to stop whining

Giving formerly homeless folks a place to live and stabilize their lives is a very good thing. But provincial, unfriendly "natives" want to keep everyone out of their little burg and revert to the way it was fifty years ago. As if. Ballard is not a gated community, but the bigots here would have us believe so.

And Rondi, your promise to take money away from Ballard businesses is the perfect example of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

I, for one, will continue to support this neighborhood's businesses. And I guarantee, when Mr. Gyros opens up down the street from the Urness House property, they are going to rake in the dollars, with or without your patronage.

80 Unit Residential Homeless Facility in Ballard

It is my choice to shop and/or dine and/or trapse around downtown Ballard. I am not cutting off my nose to spite my face because I choose not to place myself alone in an uncomfortable situation, especially after dark--I don't care what neighborhood it is in.

You seem to abhore Ballard. Why do you want to place this homeless facility among the provincial, unfriendly "natives" and bigots in Ballard? Maybe Compass needs to rethink the placement of this facility if their employees are so anti Ballard.

Your having a weird fantasy

First off, I don't work for Compass, and have no connection to them at all. Secondly, I like Ballard a lot, which is why I'll continue to patronize businesses here.

It's NIMBY bigots I don't like.

Funny how you totally re-characterized your first comment ("I know I will not be shopping and/or dining in downtown Ballard, I will take my business elsewhere.") with your second comment ("I choose not to place myself alone in an uncomfortable situation, especially after dark--I don't care what neighborhood it is in.") Comment #1 has nothing to do with comment #2. This tactic is commonly referred to as "dissembling."

News flash: Walking alone after dark is considered stupid pretty much everywhere, and has nothing to do with you dissing downtown Ballard businesses. You're intent on punishing all downtown Ballard businesses because you don't like the Urness House project. And that's irrational.

I wish we could make Ballard

I wish we could make Ballard a gated community. I would sure be a lot safer.

Urine house

Rhondi said it correctly. Compass has had some small projects but nothing like this and where a building of this size set in the heart of Ballard they have none. I wish compass would produce facts and not some Ideology or perception that no crime is to increase. The amount of sex offenders alone at the current facility is unbelievable.
They say they picked this sight because it promotes interactive with the community. Hello!! Anyone home.
This is so absurd I cant go on. If one hard working citizen or business owner is harmed it is too many. Unsafe alley access, rape in the alley or anything remotely like this will be because city planners and the good intentions of some people will be the marred forever.
Mark my words Ballard citizens and wake up!!!!!

"We're moving folks into our community."

M.J. Kiser, Compass Housing Alliance program director says, "We're not moving folks into your community," she said. "We're moving folks into our community."

This means that they are moving them INTO Ballard from other locations like Pioneer Square. Why? They are already receiving Sec 8 Vouchers or DSHS support and so Compass will get cash flow right away. The same Chronically Homeless people you see now in Ballard will continue to walk the streets!

If a Ballard homeless person is selected in the process, it will take several months before they get processed and begin receiving state supported income.

Again....Ms Kiser just said we are moving folks into our community! Can it get more clearer that that!

I Work For DSHS and your wrong.

Frankly it can take several years before you can get an individual cleared and accepted.

Urness House will be a beautiful addition to the neighborhood

I thought that the meeting was generally respectful, and reasonable people who took time to ask questions afterwards got their questions answered. The building will clearly be beautiful, and staffed and maintained. It is being built by an experienced agency to be a good home for 80 people and a place of employment for others, all of whom will spend their money in the local community. The Chamber of Commerce president made it clear that there will be no negative parking impact, and lots of people pointed out that everyone is safer when people are inside, and not left outside without help to suffer and die.

Good for Ballard, and welcome to the Urness House and its staff and residents. This is part of how a city should be.

City Girl

spending money in the community

Anyone living and working in a populated area will of course spend money in that community. Great. They spend money in Compton but I'm not moving there. The issue that seems to be a concern is that this will alter the demographic of this community. I know it is a concern for me as I prefer to live in a community where the demographic contains the smallest percentage of addicts, untreated mental health patients, criminals, and sex offenders and the highest percentage of working citizens. I'm a big fan of Mr. Gyro (geenwood) ,but, I will be less likely to go there if I have to walk past an assembly of mentally unstable people petitioning me for sponsorship. I do believe that as a citizen and human I have a social responsibility to assist in providing support for the people in my community that can't support themselves but putting it in downtown Ballard is just devoid of common sense. Or.. maybe..they don't care. Hmm. Why not above 85th, or downtown, or Windermere or Queen Anne. If you are saying this is good for Ballard, I would question your motives because it is obvious to the casual observer that this will only have a negative impact.