Due to corporate immigrants like me, it’s no secret that housing is tight in Seattle. But we must put our collective foot down to insist on non-steerage accommodations for our fellow man.
To my great shame, I confess that my husband and I are what’s wrong with Seattle. We are corporate underlings in our mid-thirties who moved here a year ago with our small children. There is zero rock ’n’ roll in our lives, but despite this, we bought a house in Fremont because we loved the quirkiness of this one-time countercultural neighborhood with all its art, nightlife and naked bike riding — activities we don’t participate in but feel cooler for having nearby. So now here we are, stinking up the place with our gentrifying squareness. Even our new-construction house — one of five bulk-built on a two-home plot — is literally square.
All of this is to say that I don’t deserve to live in Fremont, but I am grateful to the neighborhood for accommodating me anyway. I sympathize with people drawn to the “Center of the Universe,” and I understand that we need to be clever when it comes to housing them. But Project 3026875, a “small efficiency-unit” complex proposed by developer Vann Lanz at 3959 Fremont Ave. N., is neither the solution Fremont needs right now nor the one it deserves.
Zoning laws aside, is it even reasonable to cram 26 efficiency units and three additional apartments on just two lots? No, but due to corporate immigrants like me, it’s no secret that housing is tight in Seattle. Yet at some point, we must put our collective foot down to insist on non-steerage accommodations for our fellow man.
Even without the ethical considerations, though, Project 3026875 is a bit of a logistical nightmare. The current plans don’t include parking (presumably because parking spaces could be better used as more living rooms), so construction of this building is inviting numerous cars into an already densely populated neighborhood that cannot accommodate them.
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Even more worrying is that the entrance to this veritable tenement will be situated on a no-name, one-lane alley that runs parallel to Fremont Avenue, which is all but inaccessible to firetrucks and ambulances in an emergency much less the Amazon deliveries and Uber drivers of modern life. This is unsafe, but throw in the children teeming in and out of the B.F. Day Elementary School across the street, and the poor traffic flow becomes a greater worry.
The kicker is that the hillside complex does not include access down to Fremont Avenue, which would force anyone differently abled to detour three or more blocks to access a main road. If you’ve ever walked up the steep slope of Fremont Avenue — or, God forbid, ridden a bike — I’m sure you can appreciate this undertaking.
Overall, these “efficiency” apartments are poorly thought-out at best, but this problem isn’t unique to Fremont: As real estate continues to become an ever-rarer commodity in Seattle, people will salivate to exploit the housing shortage for the most money possible.
On Fremont Avenue, profits can still be made reasonably with a handful of high-density homes like my own instead of a maximum-density sardine can with six times the population on the same amount of land. Project 3026875 sets a precedent for other venerable neighborhoods facing hatchet jobs to accommodate more and more people. Yes, the face of Seattle is changing, and I, for one, have benefited from it. But any face-lift should proceed in a way that is safe, dignified and in keeping with the original composition lest the product turn out freakish and bloated.
In Seattle’s capital of quirk, there is a difference between being offbeat and downright nuts. Allowing Project 3026875 to continue is without a doubt the latter: I may be a square who has only lived here a year, but even I’m Fremont enough to know it.