Photo by Peggy Sturdivant
BJ Douglas at the site of former home, which is set to be turned into microhousing.

Former owner of microhousing site: 'I didn't know'

By Peggy Sturdivant

BJ Douglas and her husband loved living in their 1909 Ballard Craftsman for 23 years. As parking became too difficult they moved north in 2007, but didn’t sell their old home until last November.

The Douglases had long discussions with the prospective owner about his plans to build six units, deconstruct the house for reusable materials, and “build green.”

Then three weeks ago BJ Douglas read in the Ballard News-Tribune about opposition to a microhousing development for 43 one-bedroom units at 1715 NW 58th Street. “That’s my house,” she realized.

She learned that without her knowledge the developer Bob Dedon of 1715 Apartments LLC had canceled initial plans and applied to create what’s listed as a boarding house. Stunned by this change in plans all that BJ can manage is, “I didn’t know.”

Although the 1700 block of NW 58th used to have many single-family homes it is zoned for low-rise multifamily. For this reason there was no Design Review notice or public meeting required, outside of Department of Planning & Development review. The proposed six-unit project would have been in keeping with surrounding newer construction and would have had to supply parking before recent code changes.

The house was considered a blue-and-pink showcase, with a beautiful garden and trees. Just six months ago BJ lost her husband Eric. Between his death and learning about the fate of their former home she feels completely derailed. “I used to tell people there was not one inch of the house that my hands hadn’t touched.”

According to neighbors the promised deconstruction did not occur, no removal of original fir floors or fixtures. The demolition permit was issued on August 26th. The permit issued on September 17 is to build what’s being called aPodments, characterized in part by just one shared kitchen per 6-8 units. Neighbors have organized to block the development through the website www.stop1715.org.

With the displacement of Lockhaven residents, and in their presence, the question of affordable housing was posed to City Council member Sally Bagshaw at the last Ballard District Council meeting. “My answer will make your tongue curl,” she said. “We need to look to more micro-housing or boarding house models, as well as looking at more detached dwellings – mother-in-law units.”

The fact that Douglas had to read about what was happening to her former home in the newspaper and that Lockhaven residents learned about renovations and rent increases through eviction notices highlights a disconnect between the residents, the developers and the City of Seattle government. As the Seattle Public Library system proved when holding public meetings after the Libraries for All Levy allowing neighborhood residents to be part of the process makes all the difference in the world.

As for BJ Douglas, she’s still very much a Ballard person concerned and puzzled by the mixed messages from the City: programs to reduce storm water overflow and yet increased density, waiving parking space requirements while not increasing transit options. But mostly she wants to communicate that when it comes to the plans for what’s to rise up out of the currently mud-filled hole, “I didn’t know.”

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