What Was Promised
“Workforce housing that’s less car-dependent.”
In early 2018 Seattle developer Spectrum Development Solutions promoted “Stateside” to neighbors, lawmakers, and influential local organizations as sustainable “workforce housing” for students, teachers, nurses, and other young professionals, saying the development would focus on environmental stewardship and community health, and that it would promote a less car-dependent lifestyle for its residents.
The developer met with the soon-to-be displaced artists from the Alley District to discuss ways to incorporate their murals, sculptures, photography and landscaping into the new project. They said they wanted to create a new space for The Hub to operate its beloved community bike shop in a location along the South Bay Trail.
Spectrum changed their plans as the project made its way through permitting. Spectrum received a city land use permit for “Stateside” in February 2019, for a market-rate 513-bed student housing development consisting of primarily 4, 5 and 6 bedroom apartments. Spectrum used flawed data to show that the project would require less parking. The City of Bellingham approved the company’s request to build just 100 on-site parking spaces (less than half the amount required by city code) based on that data. As of January 2019 there is no firm plan to retain The Hub within the project, and only one artist has a contract to include their work in the final development.
The NSBC wants what was promised.
For nearly 6 months, the NSBC met with city planning officials, city council members, nearby business owners, community advocacy groups, and with Spectrum representatives in an attempt to put stricter measures in place to ensure that Spectrum would deliver the less-car-dependent workforce housing that was promised.
The NSBC disagreed that the mitigations suggested by Spectrum’s parking study would effectively reduce car trips and parking spillover impacts. We asked the city to require additional, common sense mitigations that were recommended in the developer’s own studies — including a shuttle to WWU campus and a fleet of 10 electric bikes. We also asked Spectrum to consider including adequate space for The HUB bike shop, and to provide affordable commercial space on the ground floor designed to attract small tradespeople like those that thrived in our neighborhood for decades.
Since city code can’t require “intangibles” like these, we negotiated directly with the developer in attempt to form a Community Benefits Agreement. Spectrum stopped negotiating with the NSBC in January 2019; no agreement was made.
Spectrum Development Solutions | Seattle, WA
Mithun | Seattle, WA - San Francisco, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Letters of Support
The letters of support for the proposed project sent in to the City of Bellingham, including letters from Sustainable Connections, The Downtown Bellingham Partnership and WWU.
Letters of Opposition/Concern
The letters of opposition which express concerns about the proposed project, mainly from citizens and adjacent businesses to the project site.
Mitigated Determination of non-significance (MDNS)
When a project of this scale is proposed, the first step is to conduct a study following the guidelines in the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) which is a 360 degree assessment of the impacts of the proposed project on the environment, water, air, traffic, aesthetics of the neighborhood among many other factors. This is the result of the SEPA analysis, which found that, with a few noted mitigations, the impacts of this project were determined by the City of Bellingham to be non-significant.
Nunes-Ueno Parking Study
The parking study that was commissioned by the developer as a part of the SEPA analysis.
COmmunity Benefits Agreement
The NSBC attempted to negotiate a community benefits agreement directly with the developer from October 2018-January 2019. This is the list of additional actions the NSBC sought to get the developer to promise, in writing, to voluntarily add to their building permit, making them accountable to deliver them as a part of the finished project. The developer was unwilling to sign any written agreement with our group.
Proposed Course of action
After a thorough study of city codes and the supporting documents for this project that were submitted during the permitting process, the NSBC drew its own conclusions about the mitigations it thinks will actually reduce the impacts of this project on the surrounding neighborhood. This list has been shared with the developer and the City of Bellingham planning department.
CONSOLIDATED PERMIT: Design Review, Critical Areas and Parking Waiver Decision
On February 1, 2019, the City of Bellingham issued the first set of permits that will allow the Stateside project to move forward.