SEATTLE -- Ballard's building boom is hitting a little too close to home for Laurette and Leroy Simmons.The couple, who retired to NW 60th Street six years ago, bought a home that had been recently redone. They moved in with Leroy's 97-year old mother, constructed a deck on the third floor, and built a tree house in the backyard for the grandkids.They are friendly with their neighbors, Laurette says, but are about to become, well, close."I don't understand how they can build a house 10 inches away. Certainly they have to be on our property to do that," Laurette said. "We're very disappointed in the fact that the city is going to allow us to happen. They're just cheating us." A developer plans to put four rowhouses right next to the Simmons' house, according to plans filed with the city. The developer can build right on the property line, due to city regulations that changed about three years ago."You're starting to see townhomes, apartments, rowhouses go in, in areas ripe enough for development," said Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development. "The row house was sort-of a new development type for Seattle, but something that's very tradtitional in other areas of the country, like New York, Brooklyn, San Francisco.""(The city council) eventually decided that you needed that, you needed to allow that zero-lot line development to encourage future row house development to continue down a block," Stevens added. "There will be some growing pains as neighborhoods start to develop with the kinds of structures that have been allowed there for over 30 years."Drawings filed with the city show that the rowhouse closest to the Simmons' home could be as close as 2.5 feet from them, with the Simmons' gutter 10-12 inches from their neighbors' wall.
"I'm a mathematician. So is my husband. There's no angle that we could possibly work out where we could actually get up to fix it," Laurette said."There's no chance of them being able to maintain it once it's built," Leroy added. Laurette expressed concern about how her mother-in-law might escape in an emergency, and how neighbors are going to dispose of trash, in addition to how construction could happen without damaging their house. The family isn't ruling out legal action."We're not against density. We understand we live in a very desirable area," Laurette added, "but to build a house so close to another house which does not allow either one of them to be maintained - how can that possibly happen?"