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Richmond Beach Congregational Church Responds Regarding Low-Income Housing Project

Church says much deliberation preceded decision to create up to 24 units of housing with Hopelink on 15th Ave. N.W. property

Editor's Note: After receiving a press release from Richmond Beach Congregational Church Neighbors, who oppose the proposed housing on property next to the church, Patch asked the church to respond. The letter is from Jim Civarra, Chair of Long Range Planning Committee, of the Richmond Beach Congregational Church.

Richmond Beach Congregational Church was founded in 1891 and has been at its present location since 1960.  It has functioned as a meeting place for the community ever since its founding.

Many members of the congregation are residents of the Richmond Beach neighborhood and of the city of Shoreline.  And RBCC has an extremely active and engaged congregation.  Many members who live outside Richmond Beach and Shoreline are around the church throughout the week in conjunction with church and community activities.  They are not people who are only in the neighborhood on Sundays.

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.

Here is our analysis of the issues raised in the RBCC Neighbors document:

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

RBCC Long-Range Planning Committee

Jim Civarra February 24, 2012 at 07:14 PM
There is no design yet for the proposed RBCC-Hopelink project. At the link below you can see pictures of Hopelink Place in Bellevue, which has 20 units and was developed by Common Ground, which will be doing the development on RBCC's property. The look of the RBCC-Hopelink project may end up being totally different, but the scale should be similar. http://commongroundwa.org/portfolio/hopelink-place

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