More on the 5×5 Decision

Here are a few summary points on the 5×5 project passing with modifications.

Attorneys for both sides spoke on whether the Restricted Development was appropriate.

  • The city attorney suggested that the project did meet requirements to come forward as a restricted development. In my book this ended the legal discussions.  Previously with the use of the R4 setbacks in the R2 zone with out any sort of a design modification, I believe the law was not followed.

Restricted vs. Incentive Development

  • These are not mutually exclusive
  • When I asked staff why use a restricted development now but an incentive last year.  Restricted was used this year because an apartment building that is not a tri or four-plex is not allowed in R2, but last year had the change taken place to R4 the incentive development could have been used.
  • Advantage of R4 (or some other zoning code like B2) is that we can use incentive development and straight up trade higher quality design for density.
  • Advantage of R2 and a restricted development is that the developer can’t walk away from the development and that do something over the counter that does not meet the reason for that zone changed in the first place.  There is absolutely no contidional zoning.


  • Neighbors said that the proposal 1) does not fit the block 2) does not comply with R2 zoning
  • Developer said that the proposal 1) does fit the neighborhood 2) does comply with the high denisty residential designation in comprehensive plan
  • I believe that all 4 statements are correct.
  • The strict letter of the law says we must weigh whether the development is compatible with the neighborhood.

17 similar apartment buildings in my core neighborhoods that abut downtown (similar in floor area ratio and/or unit density).

  • 508 4th Street SW
  • 512 4th Street SW
  • one next to 512 4th Street SW
  • 600 4th Street SW
  • 428 6th Street SW
  • 718 5th Street SW
  • 730 5th Street SW
  • 317 6th Avenue SW
  • 620 2nd Street SW
  • 855 1st Street SW
  • 621 1st Street SW
  • 421 6th Avenue NW
  • 845 1st Street NW
  • 7 7th Avenue SW
  • 11 7th Avenue SW
  • 1143 1st Street SW
  • 1301 1st Street NW

What I don’t like about 5×5 Building:

  • Massing relitive to other structures on the block
  • History of decisions made on the site.
  • Access from the street not alley (preferred by neighborhood)
  • Green space behind not in front (preferred by neighborhood)

What I like about 5×5 building

  • Pedestrian friendly design
  • Bicycle freindly design
  • Accessible design
  • Attractive from the street
  • High quality facade materials
  • Separate entrances particularly on street side
  • Legitmate attempt to save 2 trees
  • Innovative car share
  • No individual HVAC units sticking out all sides of the building (condition I added for better compatability)
  • Screened / hidden utilities (condition I added for better compatability)
  • Improved lower access level to B2 design guidelines (condition I added for better compatability)

Personal fear:

  • Create a precident which causes more historic structures to be razed

Personally no fear:

  • Building will hasten demise of neighborhood
  • Building will create traffic issues
  • Building will lower property values

Best case scenario:

  • Building plays out like Cascade Creek, Orchard Hills Villas, and Kutzky Flats where after initial opposition almost everyone acknowleges the building is attractive and a good fit.

To protect what is great about core neighborhoods we must:

  • Enact strong form based zoning codes
  • Create Historic Districts with teeth and then update the comprehensive plan
  • Don’t let building decay (like 420 6th Avenue SW)
  • Keep 6th Avenue SW as a complete street and downtown buffer per the downtown masterplan

Lastly completely false conventional wisdom:

  • R1, R2, R3, R4 are approppriate for pre WWII neighborhoods
  • R4 is the highest density zoning for residential



  1. Of the 17 apartments listed, 8 are in Kutzky, 8 in Hist SW, and one on the boundary. If you want to count the types of buildings in the area, the only fair way to do it is to draw circles on the map. No matter how big the circle, the majority of the structures (including parking lots) around 5th & 5th are single family houses.

    Mac has said at every council meeting that DMC will need more apartments, and he intends to build them in Hist SW. That would be fine if the neighborhood was full of blighted rentals, but it’s got a high ratio of owner-occupied houses compared to other core neighborhoods, houses sell fast for good money, and has been stable for a century. Hist SW has great value as is and doesn’t need redevelopment just for the sake of redevelopment.

    I don’t think 5th & 5th on its own would cause the demise of the neighborhood, but it has become something of a ‘line in the sand’ for where we stop the apartment blocks and maintain the houses.

    It’s too bad Mac can’t develop to the north and east into the parking lots. I get the impression he would honestly like to do some big projects that direction.

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