Frustration mounts over large Seattle townhome plan

SEATTLE -- There wasn't much space on the dining room table at the home near 9th Ave. W and McGraw Street Tuesday morning. Dinner plates had been replaced with land use applications; glassware with architectural renderings.

It was a feast of documents inside Terri Johnston's home. First on the menu: the changing face of Queen Anne.

"Seattle is booming. I happen to think that's a really good thing," said Johnston, a Queen Anne resident for two decades. "This is about how our neighborhoods are respected and treated as growth happens. Are we going to take away the things that people love?"

In Johnston's case, it's the view of Elliott Bay from her porch on a clear day and the giant canopy of old elm trees, both of which could change under plans filed with the city. Developer Toll Brothers wants to knock down the six buildings that currently house the Seattle Children's Home and replace them with 11, three-story townhomes.

The space, off McGraw Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, would have 61 townhomes total, once the 129-year old charity relocates to Burien and the land is redeveloped.

"To date, we have engaged in conversations with neighbors both on our block and across the street," said Brian Wulfestieg, assistant vice president at Toll Brothers, in a statement. "We have talked to our neighbors for (five) months and by attentive listening we believe our design now represents a thoughtful reflection of the neighborhood values and character."

The plans for 901 W. McGraw Street have elicited "lots of public comment," said Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the city's department of planning development. The developer will be required to provide parking for the townhomes, he said.

"It's west of the Queen Anne 'urban village,' so they need to provide parking on a per-residential unit basis," Stevens said. "We'll also be doing an environmental review. We'll look at traffic and parking and all those issues. It's possible we could require additional parking."

Parking - and access to the townhomes - remains a concern for Susan Allen, who has called Queen Anne home for more than two decades. She also brought up worries about preliminary plans posted on the city's website, which show several large spans of walls running along 9th Avenue West.

"We're taking a Berlin Wall-style building and putting it into the heart of a residential neighborhood," Allen said. "It's urban sprawl right in the heart of the city."

Both Allen and Johnston have been gathering signatures and trying to raise awareness through a group called Future Queen Anne. The group hopes to show up in large numbers to a design review meeting on Wednesday night.

"We're for development. We know the property's going to be developed. People want to live on Queen Anne but we're concerned that there's this large of a development," Allen added. "There's a lot of density already in this neighborhood. Taking it to the next level where you're taking and putting in over 60 units - side by side, connected with no light, no space - we just think it should be smart growth."

The city's Design Review Board meets Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 1st Avenue West. More information can be found here.