aPodments move to the Exurbs

Snohomish2

Homes near Snohomish HS

What do the neighbors say when a real estate company tries to convert a run-down single family home in Snohomish that’s been empty since 2008 into “aPodments” renting for $400 to $500 a room?  Sing along, I think you know the tune by now:

But the plan is upsetting neighbors, who argue that the proposal would hurt the character of the neighborhood…

[neighbor Ardie McLean] worries that apodments chiefly attract people without any investment in the community.

To be fair, this Snohomish rooming house will be in a single family zone, whereas Seattle’s aPodments are being built in multifamily zones.

I’m strongly in favor of car-free dense housing in general in the more transit-friendly places in our state’s most transit-friendly city.  But what about in the far suburbs?  I’m generally not a fan of adding housing in the exurbs: they’re generally sprawled, take a large amount of resources, and require a large amount of driving both for a commute and for daily tasks.  But on the other hand, I prefer to pull population toward our cities by allowing more people to live here, not by outlawing homes in the exurbs.  I’m having trouble imagining who would want to live in a $500 room in Snohomish, but I don’t see any reason to block the development.

So what do you think.  Exurban aPodments: for or against?




Comments

  1. William says

    “I’m having trouble imagining who would want to live in a $500 room in Snohomish, but I don’t see any reason to block the development.”

    My reaction exactly. I wouldn’t live there, but I don’t see any reason to block the development in the offchance someone does.

  2. djw says

    I’m pro-freedom. I kind of doubt there will be much of a market for them, but why not? As long as the argument against is just NIMBYish “those kind of people” bs, I see no reason to oppose them. Let people decide how much space they want to pay for in their apartments.

    • John Bailo says

      These are basically SRO hotels for the homeless. And why not…here in Kent, the choice is having 30 to 40 people living in a public park, in the center of our “down town”, defecating outside the public library (current situation) or shoehorning these places in around every town in Washington and trying to get funding to move them into these and hoping it doesn’t decay into a crime ridden tenement.

      If there are any better ideas, we’d love to hear them.

      • says

        Hear, hear!

        I believe the revival of residential (SRO) hotels would go a long way towards getting homeless off the streets -and- providing the option of weekly commuting for “supercommuters”. Two birds, one stone.

        However, aPodments serve a slightly different market than residential hotels – they are more analogous to rooming houses.

        The primary difference isn’t the size of the room, but the nature of the contract. An aPodment/rooming house has a lease and deposit, and often a reference/background/credit check, and usually some kind of shared kitchen facility. A residential (SRO) hotel has no lease, either no deposit or a minor one for the key, no requirements except enough money to pay for the day/week/month and maybe you have to show an ID, and usually no kitchen facility.

        I would suggest than an aPodment/rooming house caters to people with some commitment to an area but not much to commit, if this makes sense. This is perfect for students and others who value living in a certain area but can’t afford a self-contained apartment.

  3. Jon Sayer says

    What’s the point? The point of apodments is putting people close to jobs, close to transit, and close to amenities in an affordable way. None of that is in the exurbs.

    • Deb says

      Actually, that’s right on an Express line to Boeing. It’s 30 minutes from there to the Factory. (I’m in downtown Everett on Everett Transit and it still takes me longer to get to work)

    • asdf says

      Again, if nobody wants to live there, that’s the developer’s problem, not the rest of us’s problem. There is no good reason for not allowing the developer to spend his own money building homes on his own hand when it is already sprawl anyway. This is Snohomish we’re talking about, not wilderness.

  4. Wes says

    It’s good the people living in those apodments are not investing in the neighborhood. Exurban neighborhoods have no future to invest in.

    • z7 says

      This is a stretch, and I’m not sure how hardcore Snohomish High School is, but at my high school, some of my friends and I would have found it convenient to have a weeknight bunkhouse near school instead of waiting for a ride to carry them the 7+ miles home after activities ended at 9pm. Basically, a closeby place to sleep, write, and heat up food, since you were just going to be at the same place at 7:30 the next morning anyway.

      It was an oblong district, so some kids lived near school while others lived very far, and the only non-parental transport for after school activities were ad-hoc routed buses, Tuesday and Thursday, that could make a 20 minute trip into 90, depending on who else was on the bus that day. It also left about an hour after classes ended, which was laughably inadequate.

      Also not sure if our parents would have allowed it, but I would have asked mine.

  5. Will Douglas says

    I think we need to have a better and more accurate description of what communities outside the urban core really are. Snohomish is not an exurb. It’s a town that is about as old as Seattle. It has a walkable city center that is about as dense as places like Wallingford or Columbia City.

    Those types of places are good and should be supported and promoted. We want more density in those walkable communities, especially in towns of Snohomish’s age. That’s far better for the environment and the economy than sprawl.

    The challenge is connecting those towns to the nearby urban centers with something other than a car. Many of these towns had rail connections to a place like Everett, from which someone could get around the region as a whole. After about 1940 those all went away, and we are worse off for it.

    What we need is something more closely resembling the land use model that dominated until World War II – mixed use, compact, walkable, with rail connections between towns (and within Seattle, between neighborhoods) with a strong and robust rail network connecting the local nodes to each other.

    That’s far better environmentally, economically, and politically than people saying that big cities like Seattle should be the only places allowed to grow and have rail. That latter perspective is a guaranteed loser.

    So yes to Snohomish aPodments. But also yes to a rail line from Snohomish to Everett, and from walkable, compact towns all over Western Washington to local nodes that then connect to the region as a whole.

    • Lor Scara says

      Given size location, and existing rail right of way, Monroe to Everett via Snohomish ;)

    • Matt Gangemi says

      I want to agree with you. It does have a great, walkable downtown. And if we’re going to have more people here, it would be best to have them live densely. If this town was a bit further away, maybe I’d be convinced it provided its own jobs and isn’t linked with far away job centers. Maybe it’s because the only people I know that live there work in Seattle, but I just don’t see it as a sustainable model. Even if you convinced most people to ride a bus or train to work, you’re still spending a large amount of energy and resources to do so twice a day, every day, forever.

      That said, if most of the commuters there do actually work in Everett that isn’t so bad. Actually, with good transit and more density that’s a fine model of a nearby commuting town.

      • says

        The way I see it is… whatever you think about commuting patterns, all these places are already built and that isn’t changing. Snohomish will be here for the forseeable future.

        And people mostly aren’t going to move into small apartments to have long commutes, to live far from their work and social lives. On the eastside it usually makes little sense to move to a small, cheap apartment only to have a long drive-commute, because there are various pockets of small, cheap apartments that can support a shorter drive-commute. What’s harder is finding affordable places to live that are convenient to established town centers.

        Even if affordable infill in Snohomish falls somewhere short of a regional top priority, as long as there’s real demand for this sort of housing in Snohomish, it’s probably good.

    • Bernie says

      Snohomish is not an exurb.” Exactly, Duvall is an
      exurb. Interesting blurb from Wikipedia:

      Others argue that exurban environments, such as those that have emerged in Oregon over the last 40 years as a result of the state’s unique land use laws have helped to protect local agriculture and local businesses by creating strict urban growth boundaries that encourage greater population densities in centralized towns while slowing or greatly reducing urban and suburban sprawl into agricultural and timber land.

      What does this really do for “density”? You get maybe 6 people living in a house designed for a family of four except you get 6+ cars instead of 2. FWIW, current land Use Code is 681 “Nursery, Primary & Secondary School (commercial)”. Grandfathered in when it was converted to the Snohomish Montiessori School in 1957. In other words, it’s been operated as a day care which may explain why it’s a tough sell. It was bought by SNOHOMISH TRUST LLC in 2006 at the height of the real estate boom. In 2011 they apparently gutted it (0 bedrooms, 0 baths) and had the appraised value knocked down. In 2009 it was assessed at $642,400. Current assessment is $275,500. Can you say short sale?

      • Bernie says

        Ah, it gets better SNOHOMISH TRUST LLC also bought the adjoining property to the north in 2006 for $721,000. Current assessment $205,700. From the Herald piece, “The ordinance also limits the number of tenants by how many parking spaces are available. In this case, there are about 15 parking spaces“. Yeah it’s a corner lot but really, 15 parking spaces? I guess the 2nd lot adds 7 more. Sounds like Snohomish’s version of Sisley; let it become derelict and then get rewarded with an upzone.

  6. Lor Scara says

    Avenue D is the main North/South road in Snohomsih (just off of the picture) and has (approximatley) hourly bus service.
    4 blocks to the north running about 10 blocks you will find retail stores and fast food jobs, perfect places for you to earn your rent for one of these apodments

    • says

      As long as one can find employment, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with living in a small city; not everyone drives for hours to work at a major employment center when they live in rural areas. A friend of mine lives out in Oklahoma, and he says people in small towns out there often just walk because it’s not very far.

  7. says

    “[neighbor Ardie McLean] worries that apodments chiefly attract people without any investment in the community.”

    Nice to see that when there’s no new building going up and so no excuse to complain about being “out of scale” or anything like that, NIMBYs are forced to admit that it’s really about preserving their nice, idyllic, tightly-controlled suburban lifestyle. Someone ask the people on Capitol Hill if they’d accept apodments if it were a converted SF house like this one.

    • says

      Is there a ban in this neighborhood on home rentals? Is such a thing constitutional? Otherwise, there are no grounds here to complain.

      • Nathanael says

        No to your first question.

        Interestingly, yes to your second question; banning rentals would be entirely constitutional, if done by a state government. I doubt that local governments have the authority, as they generally only have authority specifically delegated by state government, and that doesn’t usually include authority over contract law.

  8. Ryan says

    I think those neighbors should look around and wonder why no one moved into the home since 2008 that was “invested in the community.”

    To the point of the post, I see nothing wrong with densifying existing towns that are grid-oriented and have independent communities. It’s not like in Europe all people live in big cities. Connect them with reasonable rail, and call it good.

      • Scott Stidell says

        Good catch.

        In rural Austria I enjoyed watching teens hop on the DMU service I was riding and get off at the next little town to meet friends. The towns are much closer together on average there, though.

      • bovine says

        I read that as meaning “It’s not as if in Europe all people live in big cities”, i.e., Ryan was not claiming that they all DO, but that many do NOT. But I guess he can tell us what he really meant I guess. :)

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Yeah, not sure who you’re arguing with, Bernie. You’re only supporting Ryan’s claim.

      • Anandakos says

        The towns are much closer together in Europe. But, like in Oregon, the space between them is rural, without the sort of house spam we get with 1 acre lots here in the US.

        There is a defined limit to nearly all European cities and towns, except in Great Britain. You can see it; you can step across it; and you can be in the country on the other side.

  9. Mike Orr says

    Snohomish is a small town, you can walk from one end of it to the other end in 20 or 30 minutes. Not the periphery, but the central part. This sounds like an experiment on whether apodments work in suburbs, and should be encouraged. Lynnwood and Edmonds should do the same, near their transit stops and activity centers. Of course these will be different than Seattle apodments. They can’t survive without parking. But if they increase people’s non-driving trips from 0% to 10% or even 2%, and allow people to live more centrally than they could otherwise afford to, they’ll still be worthwhile.

  10. Jason Mitchell says

    Yeah, I see no reason to uniformly oppose them. That is not sprawl, but a good neighborhood street grid at least as dense as much of Seattle. And it’s across the street from a high school and within walking distance to a commercial district. The Snohomishes of the region aren’t going anywhere, so why not support affordable infill in decent cores like this?

    At the end of a cul-de-sac a half-mile from a collector road in a true exurb? Maybe a different story.

    • says

      Yeah, at the end of a cul-de-sac I start to get a lot more ambivalent…

      One case of cul-de-sac development that could end up being pretty big/dense is Point Wells. And ambivalent is exactly how I feel about that. Probably less bad than Redmond Ridge or something, but only probably, and only just.

  11. Rico Tubbs says

    Everything I’ve heard and read says the rooming houses aren’t much of a big whizbang in Seattle, though pro-development will probably disagree,and people desperate enough will live anywhere. I guess by calling them ‘Apodments’ somehow that’s supposed to get us away from the fact that they are just rooming houses. The real issue is why developers are such cheerleaders for affordable housing, but keep charging exorbitant fees for reasonable housing, or exorbitant rates for rooming houses. They like rooming houses because they get to put a lot of teeny-tiny rooms in a building and charge disproportionate rates per square foot. Why don’t they take a smaller profit? These kinds of developers should get some REAL civic pride and start making sacrifices like the rest of the hartd-working taxpayers who have to live with, and pick up the pieces of, their ‘Experiments’.

    • djw says

      Because they own the property, and they’re taking the risk.

      The high prices that are charged for apartments are a product of artificial scarcity, created by policy makers under the sway of precisely the kind of thinking you’re engaged in here. By blocking developments like this, you’re contributing to the problem.

      I continue to be amazed by the extent to which I–an avowed socialist–have a greater appreciation for and understanding of the role of markets in society than so many conservatives.

      • Nathanael says

        Is it that only socialists bother to study markets enough to understand them?

        Or perhaps, those who study markets enough to understand them *become* socialists.

        You’d be surprised at how many successful Wall Street traders have socialist political views…. comes from seeing behind the curtain, I suppose.

  12. Andrew S. says

    I am completely for aPodments in the exurbs, but rail or efficient bus service must connect that outer suburb/exurb with the urban core. Think of the London tube, you could be 50-100 miles away from London and still be a short distance away from a rail line that would whisk you away to the nearest tube station.

    • Bernie says

      Seattle isn’t going to become London. But it’s amusing to see how transit advocates “plan” the next hundred year investment as anything but a tax increase; and a regressive tax at that.

    • Mike Orr says

      If the interurbans hadn’t been killed, and had been incrementally improved over the decades, we would have a system like London (although not with 5-minute frequency to Snohomish, more like hourly). And the rail network would have encouraged compact town centers to remain intact rather than making everything low density like milk spreading in water.

  13. Sam says

    Someone help me with the piecing together the logic on this one. Matt says he’s not a fan of adding housing in the exurbs because they take a large amount of resources, so Andrew’s solution to that is to connect the exurbs to the urban core by building multi-billion dollar rail systems, which, by its very definition, is taking a large amount of resources.

  14. Brent says

    Just to take things further, I’d support some rural apodments, too, as an alternative to having the people who do the grunt work of growing our food supply but not getting paid the federal minimum wage living in tent cities.

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