The Seattle Times has the news that the city's deputy hearing examiner has overturned an earlier city approval of a new apartment building in Pioneer Square. Like other fights across this rapidly growing city, the proposal to replace a parking garage with a 12-story, 200-unit apartment building pitted the city against neighbors worried about the "scale" and "historic character" of the neighborhood.
“We’re going to have Miami Beach on Elliott Bay,” one neighbor warned in an interview with the Times last month.
The neighbors' argument here has been more about those "scale" concerns than about the parking garage itself, but the result remains: In a city struggling with a housing crisis, they just helped preserve a parking garage at the expense of 200 units of housing.
Last year, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board voted against allowing this project. That was overruled by Kathy Nyland, director of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. (A hopeful pro-density sign from a city government with mixed results on this kind of thing.) Then, neighbors appealed and today won a victory from Deputy Hearing Examiner Anne Watanabe, the Times reports.
In a statement, a lawyer for the project’s opponents called Wednesday’s decision “a big victory for the volunteers who serve on the Pioneer Square Preservation Board.”
Lawyer David Bricklin said, “This decision restores their role as the primary protector of the historic resources in Pioneer Square.”
Bricklin added, “Pioneer Square is priceless and protecting it requires perpetual vigilance. The city owes a big thank you to the amazing group of individuals who came to its rescue by filing and supporting this appeal. The examiner recognized that the city’s encouragement of new development has limits and even if the staff won’t acknowledge those limits, the hearing examiner will. Projects that are out of scale with Pioneer Square’s historic character are not allowed.”
City officials could appeal to the state Supreme Court, though it's unclear if they will.