Low-income housing proposed in Richmond Beach - church, neighbors, and HopeLink react

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Long-Range Planning Committee of the Richmond Beach Congregational Church, located at the corner of Richmond Beach Road and 15th NW, has proposed working with Hopelink to build and maintain a 24-unit housing development on church property. The housing would be administered by HopeLink, to provide places for families to live while they get back on their feet.

A group of nearby residents have formed a group called RBCC Neighbors, whose stated goal is to "make sure our concerns are seriously considered by the church and city." 

The "Neighbors" have distributed a list of questions and concerns. The "Church" has responded, and "Hopelink" has added information pertaining to their experience in the field of low-income housing. Their comments are interspersed below.

Hopelink: Hopelink is grateful to have been chosen as a partner by the Richmond Beach Congregational Church to address the needs of low income families in our community.  It is critical that, together, we maximize community resources to expand affordable housing opportunities.  Last year, Hopelink turned away 1,446 homeless families who truly needed our housing services.  This is a 43% increase from 2010.  Hopelink’s housing program provides families with comprehensive services to help them achieve permanent housing and gain skills for self-sufficiency.  Hopelink takes the safety of the clients and the communities in which we serve very seriously.  We are committed to safe, healthy communities and work to ensure this through initial resident screening and deep, continued community involvement.   Hopelink has managed housing for homeless families throughout North and East King County since 1986 and has deep roots in many local communities, including Shoreline.

Neighbors: While we understand the church's desire to help formerly homeless people in a meaningful way and its need to live out its mission in this community, we also feel strongly that the scope and size of this plan is not appropriate for our single-family neighborhood.

Church: The 24-unit figure for the proposed Hopelink project is a maximum number arrived at based on the current zoning of the church's property (R-6), the total size of the church's property (2.9 acres) and the 50 percent density bonus granted by the city for the construction of affordable low-income housing.  The city requires that the units be townhomes, rather than "stacked" apartments.  The size, shape, and elevation of the actual portion of the church's property available for development, combined with the townhome requirement, may result in an ultimate number of units lower than 24.

Neighbors: Density Bonus
Apparently the church would take into account the entire footprint of its four parcels of land and lease all four parcels to Hopelink to take advantage of the bonus density granted to low-income housing under Shoreline Municipal Code 20.40.230.  Since two of the parcels are already completely used by the church building and parking lot, that leaves only two parcels available for the proposed housing. Manipulating the requirements for the low-income density bonus deviates from the integrity of the code.  

Church: Density Bonus 
The RBCC-Hopelink project is a direct result of an effort by the City of Shoreline to increase low-income housing availability.  The density bonus is not something that is unique to the RBCC-Hopelink project.  It is offered by the city to anyone building affordable low-income housing.  And it is the city that takes into account the entire size of the church's property, rather than the size of the two parcels where the project would actually be built, in calculating the maximum number of units.  This is not some special dispensation that has been requested for this project.

Neighbors: Traffic
Traffic on 15th Avenue NW and the intersection of 15th and Richmond Beach Road are identified as problem areas in the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Plan developed by the Richmond Beach neighborhood and Shoreline traffic engineers. At the community meeting it was communicated that there would only be about a dozen cars difference (which seems like a conservative estimate). However, impact is based on “trips” each residence represents not the number of cars owned. The number of trips includes not only residents but guests, commercial activity, repair services, etc. as well. No matter how it is relayed, any extra traffic load on 15th and at the intersection could be the tipping point for serious problems affecting congestion and safety.

Neighbors: Parking
Parking is an ongoing problem for nearby neighbors during large events held at the church, Horizon School and within the community. During these events people park on private property and park illegally on both sides of the street blocking the pedestrian walkway. The plans allowed one spot per apartment.  No matter what attempt is made to control the parking issue it is unrealistic to assume this problem would not continue to spill out into the neighborhood on a more frequent basis and become a larger problem.   

Church: Traffic and Parking
The church is not aware of any recent incidents of improper parking along 15th NW by church members or attendees of church activities, and  reminders are frequently  made to  discourage any illegal parking.  The residents of the proposed Hopelink project will be very low-income, primarily single mothers with young children.  Many of them will be unable to afford cars and will be dependent on public transportation.  Hopelink has implemented a one-parking-space-per-unit standard at all of its properties and it has historically proven to be fully sufficient.  The potential impact of the project on traffic was discussed with city planners early on and they did not feel it would be significant. 

Neighbors: Richmond Beach Low-Income Housing Availability
King County Housing Authority (KCHA) recently purchased the 115-unit Meadowbrook Apartments in the 1400 block of NW Richmond Beach Road. KCHA's primary interest in purchasing the property, according to its Deputy Director Dan Watson, is to preserve “workforce” mixed-income housing that accepts Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The vouchers provided to low-income families give them the flexibility to live anywhere with moderate prices that accept the vouchers. Currently there are 28 Section 8 renters in Meadowbrook. Watson said HCHA plans to invest about $1 million for improvements over the coming year and an additional $3.5 million in repairs and upgrades over the next five to seven years.  

Church: Low-Income Housing Availability
There is a backlog of over 1100 families in north and east King County waiting for affordable low-income housing.  Even with the Meadowbrook Apartments and other proposed projects in the  Shoreline area, the demand for such housing far exceeds the supply.

Neighbors: Property Values
At the community meeting studies were introduced that showed low-cost housing had little or no impact on surrounding property values. Several studies available online showed that when the density of a project does not fit the surrounding neighborhood property values are affected. 

Church: Property Values
There is multiple-unit housing all along Richmond Beach Road and also further north on 15th NW.  The proposed RBCC-Hopelink project does not represent an unprecedented case of such development in the immediate area.  And anyone who has seen existing Hopelink housing facilties knows that they are designed and maintained at a level that meets or exceeds the standards of for-profit multiple unit properties.  Hopelink invites any interested parties to schedule a tour of existing properties to get a feel for how they manage properties and for the “look” of the developments.

Neighbors: Special Use Permits
The church obtained a conditional use permit to operate in a residential zone. Then another permit was secured to operate Horizon School and another to house cell phone towers representing several wireless companies. The church has benefited financially from each arrangement while the neighborhood has borne the impacts. Now the church proposes a 24-unit apartment complex that would require additional permits. How many exceptions to the R6-low-density residential property are allowed? Isn't the property already in non-conforming status? 

Church: Special Use Permits
The church has been in its current location for over 50 years, long before there was a city of Shoreline.  The property immediately to the west of the church, and most of the residential property around the intersection of 15th NW and Richmond Beach Road, is zoned R-18.  The Horizon School housed at RBCC has been in operation since the 1980s.  The cellphone "towers" are actually antennas that are mounted in the church's bell tower and are invisible to the community.  The church has not applied for any special permits or exemptions in conjunction with these developments and will not be doing so for the Hopelink project, which is permitted under the church's existing zoning as described above.

Neighbors: Density Load
Although it is not a major or even secondary arterial, 15th Avenue NW already bears increased density from Maple Knolls (townhouses approved by King County right before city incorporation for an unacceptable density under Shoreline's code) and the Cottages (a residential high-density option no longer available in Shoreline). The associated traffic and parking from Kruckeberg Botanic Garden has recently been added. Adding a 24-unit complex encroaches on the very nature of this single-family neighborhood. We bought our homes and made our life investment in this specific neighborhood along 15th Avenue NW because it was zoned single-family and provided the quality of life we wanted for our families. With construction of this complex the character of our neighborhood will be forever altered. 

Church: Density Load
The proposed RBCC-Hopelink project is within a block of the intersection of 15th NW and Richmond Beach Road, and virtually all of the traffic from the project will be within that block, which is primarily occupied by the church.  The idea that the project will have a significant impact along the whole length of 15th NW north of Richmond Beach Road does not square with the facts of its location and the needs and capabilities of its prospective residents. 

Neighbors: Summary Statement 
As you consider these issues please keep in mind that we are the ones who are here every day of the week, not just Sunday. Though we understand the church's need to live out its mission in this community, we have to believe it does not mean to live it out at the expense of the very community it purports to serve. As homeowners we have made a deep commitment to this community and neighborhood. And we are against this high-density plan.

Church: Summary Statement 
The decision by RBCC's congregation to undertake the project with Hopelink was not made lightly or in haste.  It is the result of several years of careful consideration of alternatives for the best use of the church's property in view of the needs of the congregation and the community.  RBCC will not benefit financially from the project.  Use of the land will in effect be donated to Hopelink under a long-term, dollar-a-year lease.    We feel that the proposed project can meet a pressing social need and also be a good neighbor.  RBCC and Hopelink will be hosting a public meeting in the near future to provide information and solicit neighborhood input on the project.  And the neighborhood will be kept involved as decisions are made regarding the design and operation of the proposed facility. 

Hopelink Comments
Hopelink clients have resided and thrived in their respective communities without incident or any complaints from their neighbors. This housing would be staffed by Hopelink daily with a nearby manager on call 24/7.
The units are devoted to permanent housing, meaning that families will reside in the community for a year or more while they work toward self-sufficiency.  There will be no emergency shelter or temporary residences on-site. 
Clients come to Hopelink for a myriad of reasons born from financial difficulties which can mean they have lost their jobs or homes, been overwhelmed with medical bills or are chronically underemployed. The residents here will be comprised primarily of adult parents and their children looking to get back on their feet.


Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM  

This is way too funny - Richmond Beach & Innis Arden have been critical of the neighborhoods nearby Aurora & on the Eastside for acting like NIMBYs and now what happens? They are acting like NIMBYs.

The city council has decided these issues already, they want economic development, they want construction, and they want density; well here it is. The city needs the sales tax revenue and the associated other revenues.

Turns out Richmond Beach isn't against Pt. Wells, it it against ALL DEVELOPMENT.

These same neighhborhoods voted in the current council majority as well; there is an old adage - be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 10:07 AM  

Anonymous 8:57,
You are so correct. This is the ultimate NIMBYism. Many neighborhoods in the rest of Shoreline have been repeatedly lectured by RB/Innis Arden "leaders", and accused of NIMBYism. This is when other neighborhoods have raised the same exact concerns about impacts to their communities!

Also, in the past councilmembers have been criticized by RB/Innis Arden for voting against or placing conditions on developments, when they were deemed too big, or too dense.

So Richmond Beach, don't you want to help the homeless, the downtrodden? Don't you want to do your part for density? Don't you want to help the economy with jobs from construction? Why are you accusing the Church of not paying fair, when this church has contributed repeatedly to your community for 50 yrs?

And RB, how is this different from proposals huge developments at CRISTA, Ridgecrest, North City, or Aurora?

Come on RB, take one for the City of Shoreline. Just suck it up and welcome your new neighbors!

Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 12:04 PM  

Here is an idea, maybe low income in the minds of the residents of RB/Innis Arden and the possible effects on their property values might mean, heaven forbid, persons of color in the neighborhood! Can't have that...

Speaking of property values, I didn't see any support for the Ballinger neighborhood when the city manager's staff put them up for a jail site without any public process as required in the comprehensive plan. RB/Innis Arden just let Ballinger twist alone in the wind. And there is a low income housing project (Vision House) being constructed nearby Ballinger, and the good folks of that neighborhood are not complaining about traffic even though there are single-family residences (that was the original zoning) nearby. In fact, there are some people from RB/Innis Arden who helped Vision House happen, but no, they can't have the same type of project near them.

You can read about it here, right in the Shoreline Area News:


RBCC Neighbors February 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM  

Part one of two:

Wow, it’s amazing the conclusions uninformed individuals can make.

Ultimately this is an issue about neighborhoods and density in those neighborhoods. Since the incorporation of the City of Shoreline the planning department has made many changes to the municipal code to increase the minimum lot size and limit density in neighborhoods. If you are a property owner in Shoreline then I hope you pay close attention to this.

It is NOT a NIMBY issues.

It’s about preserving a municipal code already on the books 20.40.030 Residential zones states.
A. The purpose of low density residential, R-4 and R-6 zones, is to provide for a mix of predominantly single detached dwelling units and other development types, such as accessory dwelling units and community facilities that are compatible with existing development and neighborhood character.

If you take the time to learn anything about RBCC Neighbors, you will find we are against the scope and size of this development in their neighborhood. You may also be surprised that as neighbors of the church we found out about this project via the newspaper. They have been planning this development since 2010, common courtesy and communication with the neighbors is what we ask for.

Why are we concerned?

The church owns four pieces of R-6 (6 units per acre) low-density residential zoned property equal to 2.9 acres. Two thirds is fully developed with a church, play area, basketball court and a parking lot. They propose to build on two of their parcels, or one acre of property, giving them 6 units based on the zoning. Here is where things get cloudy; they want to use all of their property in the calculation, even the developed property for the density calculation. The logic does not make sense, yet let’s run with it. Use 2.9 acres for the density calculation, building on one acre, that’s 18 units. Now municipal code 20.40.230 is used. This code provides a developer of low-income housing an incentive by giving them a 50% bonus on the density. Now, use the one acre of property they are building on this gives them a 9 unit max. Use the entire property they get 27-unit max and round down to 24 units. Note: this is the FIRST case municipal code 20.40.230 has been used. Thus subject to interpretation. This can potentially be done with minimal notification to the neighborhood, without public comment or re zoning

See part two

Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM  

An interesting curiosity related to this issue. A City Staff member is listed in the membership on the RBCC Neighbors website. So what is the position of the City on having City Staff members participating in anti-development efforts or pro-development for that matter? And what is the position of the City in having city staff endorse candidates or in political campaigns against City Council members or donating to those campaigns? What is the position of the City on Staff running or donating to referendums or levy campaigns?

Just curious.

RBCC Neighbors February 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM  

Part two of two:

As a property owner who purchased a lifetime investment in a home near the churches R-6 property, it frightens me that this property can be essentially turned into R-24 high density without my input or comment. It can happen in your neighborhood too. This is NOT NIMBY. Do some research on the zoning in Shoreline. You will find the developments you’ve listed were. A. build before the current code was in place or B. build on land zoned with the density that was constructed.

A good example is the Jacobs Well development. It’s 20 units of low-income housing on R-24 property and they did not use the untested municipal code 20.40.230.

It should be noted that RBCC, Hopelink and their developers will follow the R-6 building guidelines for this development. This includes setbacks, coverage, trees, and parking. Unlike what they lead you to believe, it is not Hopeline or another organization that determines how much parking they need, it’s the existing R-6 building requirements.

Even a conservative estimate of 24 – 3 bedroom units with occupancy of 1.5 per bedroom adds 108 people to the area. If like RBCC claims, this will be moms with young children. Then the already full capacity Syre Elementary should be prepared. And regardless of what RBCC thinks, this will add traffic to a dangerous over crowed intersection of 15th and Richmond Beach Road. (Based on the statistics in the Shoreline Comprehensive plan)

Because the church sites on R-6 low density residential property they need a conditional use permit to operate. They also have a special use permit to operate a day care and another special use permit to house cell phone towers, which I assume they get paid. We’ve never said NIMBY, what we ask for is a compromise on the size and scope of the project so it fits the neighborhood.

Unlike many of you I've signed this response because I've invested 20+ years in this community

Lance Neubauer
Neighbor of the RBCC Church

Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 2:34 PM  

Dear Lance - what you described is entirely legal under the development code, doesn't matter if it hasn't been tested. And your appeals period on the actual legislation has already passed, you were sleeping on it so it is GONE. Your neighbors stood by when other neighborhoods had to deal with similar issues, don't expect us to feel bad for you. What you carefully described fits with the zoning.

I don't see many people at planning commission meetings when development code revisions are on the table, and even fewer write comments. Don't like, then get more involved.

You people are just a bunch of NIMBYs, don't want a King County Housing Authority site in your neighborhood, same apartment building, different owners and you are upset. There are two KCHA sites on the Eastside of Shoreline BTW.

Crista, Town Center, Ridgecrest, and North City have traffic and parking problems, what makes you so special?

Anonymous,  February 27, 2012 at 3:48 PM  

As a lifelong resident of the Richmond Beach and Richmond Highlands neighborhoods, I am deeply saddened by implications of so many of the "opposing" comments. I can’t help but feel “multidensity housing” is not the real issue here, but rather a misguided fear of “others.”

I have seen in other forums comments about putting these facilities “where they belong” closer to Aurora etc. According to statistics from the King County Coalition for the homeless, more than FIFTY FIVE percent of homeless are families. Would you want to raise your kids on Aurora?

Richmond Beach Congregational Church has been an active resident of the neighborhood for over 100 years, the past fifty on the existing parcel. During that time, the church has been blessed to offer the building and its grounds to a multitude of community organizations including candidate forums, voting booths, Hillwood Soccer Club meetings, condo association meetings, AA meetings, Girl Scouts, etc; even offering the church parking lot for use by the Kruckenberg Garden during their open house events in an effort to help minimizing traffic flow and street parking in the neighborhood. This project is a further extension of that tradition of community involvement and care.
The "parcels" for development are not unused grounds, but rather the two existing (and somewhat dilapidated) homes immediately to the North of the church building. Quite likely this will create an aesthetic IMPROVEMENT! The residents of these facilities here and at other Hopelink facilities are under strict guidelines for maintaining both the grounds and their homes. These standards (which include monthly unit inspections, strict rules on drugs and alcohol, guest restrictions), set a standard high above what most existing residents of this neighborhood would be willing (or able!) to live by.
To get an idea of the aesthetics, the following website is a great place to see a “similar” project. http://commongroundwa.org/portfolio/hopelink-place

Anonymous,  February 28, 2012 at 9:04 AM  

It is sad indeed, to see these RB neighbors objecting to this positive project proposal, which would provide housing for families of lower means. The church is obviously following through on its mission to provide for "the least of these."

And the proposal even allows to protect some of the existing trees to provide landscaping that will make it an attractive addition to the neighborhood. And they will include strict rules on residents. That is more than any other housing group in Richmond Beach is required to do.

Let's hope that the Mayor, who lives nearby, and has benefitted in his election campaigns from donations from many of the members of this NIMBY group, will advocate and vote for this proposal. Let's hope he doesn't cave in to this obvious protectionist move by this narrow-minded neighborhood action.

The chickens are coming home to roost Richmond Beach. Now Richmond Beach has to join the 21st century.

Anonymous,  March 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM  

@Anonymous, February 27, 2012 12:04 PM

Did you seriously just imply that folks in RB don't want people of color in their neighborhood? Really? You completely invalidated any rational or reasonable parts of your post with your racist comment.

Seriously, what a nincompoop~

Anonymous,  March 2, 2012 at 6:49 AM  

I've never had the impression that the neighbors are totally opposed to putting in low income housing. Rather, they are opposed to the slippery math being used to determine the density of the housing.

Anonymous,  March 3, 2012 at 6:22 AM  

That same math has been used elsewhere in the city, try North City - and it is legal, Seattle uses it all of the time.

When the website of the neighborhood opposing this project bring up the KCHA housing project and the church low income housing, one gets the impression they don't want low income housing in their neighborhood.

And the Puget Sound Regional Council has assigned a density target to Shoreline, all of Shoreline has to become more dense. The city council has already decided what the criteria will be for density and the bonus points, this neighborhood was sleeping on it since they had their axle wrapped around Point Wells.

In fact, Point Wells has dominated the city planning efforts for years and even got the special attention of the legislators in Olympia, no other neighborhood in Shoreline got that kind of attention. Which leads one to conclude you are a bunch of NIMBYs.

And to say you have the nerve to complain about traffic to Kruckeberg, I have lived here 13 years and have never visited there. The city has an earmark just for Kruckeberg operations and has spent quite a bit of money improving it, with special consideration made for your neighborhood's concerns - something other neighborhoods didn't receive from parks.

I can't wait to hear about the whining that will come from the SCC master plan and their new 400-bed dorm from RB/Innis Arden, you folks probably think SCC is your private open space...

Anonymous,  March 3, 2012 at 11:09 AM  

Anonymous, March 3, 2012 6:22 AM is making me chuckle.

Anonymous,  March 6, 2012 at 6:07 PM  

I have to laugh too - apparently the opponents of the proposed project think those run down houses on the church's property are helping their property values!

Anonymous,  March 29, 2012 at 4:12 PM  

I am a concerned neighbor, but Mr. Neubauer does not speak for me.

Mr. Neubauer criticizes the church's timing of informing the neighborhood, but ignores the fact that this is very early in the process and that the church did not have to provide any information to the community at this stage. Why not be appreciative of their overture and respond in a similarly civil and respectful manner?

The "neighbor" comments above accuse the church of "manipulating" the land use code, but a little research would have quickly revealed that the method of calculation is the way it's commonly done, (as well as the fact that Mr. Neubauer's statements about "special use permits" are incorrect).

Mr. Neubauer's comment about the church making money off of the daycare (Horizon) is also incorrect. I sat on Horizon's board of directors, and resultantly know that the church does not profit from Horizon. And I, among many other parents, are extremely appreciative of the benefit of having a day care that picks my child up from Syre and takes her to daycare, so that I can work the hours required of my job.

There is one thing Mr. Neubauer stated correctly:
"Wow, it’s amazing the conclusions uninformed individuals can make."

Perhaps we can all focus on fact gathering and dissemination, and dispense with the false accusations and derogatory comments in the interest of promoting a civil and professional dialogue. Let’s encourage this project and cooperate with the church to create an outcome that is befitting of the neighborhood.

Anonymous,  April 8, 2012 at 10:34 PM  

Looks like King County has brought in their usual suspects to do their dirty work - to do everything possible to shut down the conversation.
Typical Alinsky tactics from the King County, Seattle political ilk.
This has nothing to do with NIMBY and only shows your ignorance in suggesting such because you've completely disregarded FACTS that Richmond Beach has sponsored 3 Tent City's in the past 2 years.
Shoreline has sponsored 6.
Name me one other city that has done as much for the homeless of allowing 6 or more Tent City's in their community.
There are also 2 apartment complex buildings - solely dedicated to Section 8 Housing - The Henry House & Meadowdale. Both with over 100 units.
And, all of the other apartments comply with the law and accept Section 8 as well.
As for the comment about race - all one has to do is look at Shorewood HS to see the school is completely integrated and white students are nearing a minority.
But then again, it has never been about EQUAL RIGHTS for some. It has only and always been about MORE RIGHTS, not equal rights - which is why some resort to intimidation tactics. Disgusting. But pretty predictable.

Anonymous,  April 10, 2012 at 12:13 AM  

@Anonymous, April 8, 2012 10:34 PM

Hear Hear!

What a joke. The idea that any questioning of the proposal, any challenge to the validity of the land use figures MUST be racially motivate. And NIMBY? Really? Been to Meadowbrook lately?

In the Tired Argument dept. they forgot to pull out the "you have sidewalks in RB" argument. Good grief. WHO has sidewalks? LOL! Anyone who is near a new development. Or, on 12th across from Syre. I love these "love your neighbor" but STICK IT TO RB folks! What a bunch of hypocrites.

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