Council votes down neighbor objection to 36th & Bryant apartments

Rendering by Collage Architecture

The City Council denied an appeal May 25 filed by neighbors that sought to block construction of a 41-unit apartment building at the site of the former Southwest Senior Center.

The vote upholds the City Planning Commission’s prior approval to build a five-story, 50-foot building at 3612-3616 Bryant Ave. S.

Steven Verdoorn, who lives north of the proposal, said at a May hearing the project would cause undue loss of light, air, privacy, quiet, property values and public safety.

Nearby resident Jean Ross presented a small house tied to balloons, evoking the movie “Up.” Ross explained that the movie character saw his house increasingly surrounded by high-rises, and airlifted the house to an idyllic spot.

“I wish I could do that too, because I foresee the city’s current plan to continue building these high-density, micro-unit apartment buildings ruining the character and livability of our neighborhood,” Ross said.

Emily Bonifaci, a resident who lives south of the property, said she is a landscape architect with a background in affordable housing who bikes to work and supports density. But her property would be “dwarfed” by nearly 20 feet next door, she said.

“It’s simply just too bulky and tall of a building for the proposed site,” she said. “I’m not opposed to a residential development there, I just want to make sure that it’s done in a smart way that respects the rights and the privacy and value of the current homeowners.”

Although the city would not require any parking in the new Bryant Avenue building, the developer will construct 20 spaces. Developer Jeff Hall said the team is spending an additional $500,000 to build underground parking, and he said they will encourage tenants to use transit and the bikeway.

Council Member Lisa Goodman pointed out that the developer received a 3,000-square-foot boost in density in exchange for the underground parking.

“Which is the more pressing question to the neighbors, I guess, not having parking or less height?” Goodman asked. “You could have built a smaller building and had no parking, which I completely support, or you could have a taller building and put in the parking which is making it bigger. I’m just kind of curious what your opinion is about that, because you did get a bonus to do it.”

Development consultant Carol Lansing said in response that they are trying to balance parking demand with a transit-oriented development.

One resident of The Wedge spoke in support of the project, saying the proposal is reasonable and shouldn’t be controversial. He said it’s only fair to welcome more residents to share in the beauty of the city.

“If we’re serious about housing affordability, we need to build more homes for the people that live here,” he said.

In explaining her vote to deny the appeal, Council Member Lisa Bender said that although debates about city growth become heated, the vote before them is limited to a single development, in a walkable neighborhood, with rapid transit and nearby taller buildings. She said the area would likely continue to see growth and more proposals in the next 10-20 years.

“This is the kind of project that I often hear my constituents want when a six-story building is proposed that has over 100 units. People say we want smaller buildings, more this scale,” she said.

She noted that her ward is 80 percent renter and she was re-elected to another term.

“You didn’t hear those voices today, but they are out there,” she said.