Neighbors are fighting a planned $30 million, five-story parking garage for UW Bothell and Cascadia College that will be built directly behind their homes. In 2016, the group successfully pushed back against a plan to build a four-story dormitory on the same site.
Through the back windows of her home, Tammy Urquhart says she can see whenever someone has turned the lights on or off in Discovery Hall, a building roughly 200 yards away on the University of Washington, Bothell, campus.
The view is a far cry from when she first moved in, she says, when dense trees blocked the view from her backyard to the nearby hillside campus for UW Bothell and Cascadia College. As the campus has continually grown, the number of trees separating the two sites has decreased — and so, too, has the relationship of the neighbors who say they’re being encroached on by the growth.
Now, the neighbors are fighting a planned $30 million parking garage for UW Bothell and Cascadia students that will be built directly behind their homes in the Sunrise/Valley View neighborhood. The five-story, 600-parking stall structure would be built with Cascadia College funds, but available for students studying at both UW and the community college.
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Residents are worried about the lack of a buffer between their yards and the structure that they say is out of scale with the established neighborhood, pollution from vehicles coming in and out every day, and the impact the garage could have on their property values.
For their part, UW Bothell and Cascadia say they’ve worked to include the residents in their plans by holding multiple public meetings and listening to their concerns. Parking is badly needed for the students, and the campus-owned site is the best area for the garage, said Kelly Snyder, UW Bothell assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.
“We are doing our very best to minimize the impacts, take into account their points of view and, as much as we can, their needs as well,” said Snyder, who was speaking on behalf of both UW Bothell and Cascadia. “We’re here to serve our community. I think we’re doing that well.”
The structure plan is the latest hurdle in the campus’ yearslong and sometimes fraught relationship with its western neighbors. In 2016, the group pushed back against a UW plan to build a four-story, 500-resident dormitory and dining hall at the same site.
University officials abandoned that plan amid the outcry from the neighbors who didn’t want the dorms near single-family neighborhoods, and Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume said they asked the neighbors their thoughts on what could be built there.
“At the time we asked, ‘what are you OK with?’ ” he said. “And it wasn’t just let the school leave it and not develop it. From what I can recall, everyone was fine with the parking garage. But obviously, some people weren’t.”
The university is required to put in a 30-foot landscaped buffer, which officials are happy to do, Snyder said. But Urquhart said that will take time to grow — and existing tall trees will be removed in the process.
In response, the neighbors have attended more than a dozen public meetings, combed through city documents and written letters to elected leaders, including Gov. Jay Inslee. The schools plan to hold one more public meeting this month for the group, but construction remains slated to begin this summer.
The pushback is part of a larger issue facing many Eastside residents, often longtime homeowners who see their neighborhoods rapidly changing as their cities face rapid growth. Many of the western-edge neighbors moved in before UW Bothell was even built, or when it was a small commuter school for locals.
“We would like to have the quiet neighborhood that we moved into,” said Janet Bailey, who has lived in a house on Northeast 182nd Court since the late 1980s.
But the school has grown to a four-year university alongside Cascadia, which opened on the site in 2000. About 6,000 students attend UW Bothell, compared with about 1,600 students 10 years ago, and another nearly 3,000 attend Cascadia.
Neighbor Jannelle Loewen was quick to stress that she and the group are not anti-university. Loewen herself attended UW Bothell, and several other neighbors and their children attended the UW in Seattle. She called the decisions of the schools — which offer degrees in environmental studies and have studied climate change — to build a garage so close to a neighborhood and tear down trees as hypocritical.
She also said that the schools could build parking lots and buildings elsewhere — just not near them. Snyder, the UW Bothell official, said that the site is the schools’ best option.