The Big Question: Should developers build on a 10-acre hilltop lot in South-by-Southward?

Craig, a 42-year-old Vancouver resident:

I am not too interested in making room for condominiums at the South-by-Southward site. The concept of a condo tower that doesn’t sit high on the hillside is very anachronistic. They don’t go well with the scale of South-by-Southeast and a development of this size will destroy the character of that neighborhood. They could more easily build the high-rise with access roads and sidewalks on the western side of the hillside. This would minimize impact and provide a visually enhancing part of the community.

Carol, a 61-year-old retiree from New York:

I’ve lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle for about half my life and I have nothing but admiration for the city. The estate of Boeing founder Bill Boeing, where the hilltop community of Bonner Hill is located, was purchased by him in 1942. Today there are dozens of high-rise condominium towers going up around the city. I can only guess that this park land was acquired around the time of purchase for the giant Boeing complex and that it was planned that way because it allowed it to be developed.

What I’d like to see is a community garden and a net-zero home with a minimal footprint. The development there would be carefully planned and built in harmony with its surroundings.

I could live anywhere in the country where I could not ruin a landscape or quickly drive through a meadow. But my gut feeling is that we should keep South-by-Southward as a green space and, in time, the only green land on the landscape with development such as condos and higher buildings.

Nina, a 56-year-old from New York:

South-by-Southward will create more traffic and a more commercial area, that will not serve the Capitol Hill neighborhood in any meaningful way.

Will it be “bundled together” with other districts? Will there be activities as a “community space” or a “campground” for the kids? Will the owners of the new condos with condos have to pay to maintain it? Will it be transformed into a garage so we could get parking? Will the designers of the condo towers propose to build what they call, with reference to all-car properties, low-rise, predictable buildings that blend in with the surrounding environment?

The green space of South-by-Southward is at stake. The developer has already been renting out the parkland for outdoor movies and a big picnic to house the ghosts of the grunge music scene and other members of the city of Seattle who have ridden into the sunset into the glaring sun. This is precisely why I do not believe this parcel of land should be sold and used to further our warped notion of the linear lifestyle, which is the hallmark of the city of Seattle. I’d much rather see a larger green space restored there to fit well with the surrounding historical cityscape and San Juan Islands (a possibly nice getaway for those under 70 who lived in south-central Washington when those islands were hilly and musky) than seeing condos dotted everywhere.

Who can imagine the number of green spaces required in the city to make it all have parking and be dominated by big buildings and cars?

Readers discuss:

Malcolm, a former developer in San Diego:

It’s unclear to me how many condos this would actually add. However, considering the scope of the view and the number of houses already on that site, one can see the impact on the amount of green space. It’s not clear yet whether it would be a park with a playground or a green space with a camping area. It could be any combination of both.

We should remember that what makes green space a beautiful and desirable place to live is grass, trees, and water. People seeking to do something other than that are still in pursuit. The green space that will be preserved in our daily lives is both grass and water.

Jenna, a 26-year-old from Los Angeles:

This is all about building denser in the city and raising rents. And it’s about cash. Wealthy developers have discovered the soft spot for the high density and rooftops in cities. Having see it all first hand, I firmly believe that more expensive housing and higher rents will simply replace the middle class.

Leave a Comment