University Ridge Student Housing - What is it?Permalink +
Mon, Feb 25, 2013, 7:54 pm // Dick Conoboy
Coming soon (fall of 2014) to the Samish and Puget Neighborhoods may be a privately-owned student housing project of four buildings. It will have 164 units (allowed density is 176 units) and be designed to hold nearly 600 students, there will be parking for 433 automobiles. The complex, named University Ridge, would occupy about 11 acres of land in a now-wooded area between Puget St and Nevada St. just north of Consolidation Avenue. The multi-family zoned area is entirely within the Puget Neighborhood, however, the single viable entrance to the housing area is on Consolidation Ave. at the extreme southeast corner, and thus cars would enter and exit into Samish Neighborhood via Consolidation or 44th Street as most seek to travel to the WWU campus or the Lincoln Park-n-Ride. (See the site aerial photo above and proposed site layout below.)
According to their own documents, the developers, the Ambling University Development Group (AUDG), are providers of private student housing with more than 60 such developments nationwide. In the case of University Ridge, AUDG claims there is no connection between WWU and this development that would house not only WWU students but also those from WCC and BTC. This seems problematic given the distance from the campuses of WCC and BTC. Student status would be verified with the various schools. This notably upscale complex would contain both two and four bedroom furnished units, each with a common living area. Each bedroom, rented separately, would have its own bath. Likely monthly rents according to AUDG, would begin around $650 per bedroom for the 4 bedroom units and somewhat higher for the 2 bedroom units. The developers assert that on-site management would be provided by the Ambling Management Company that manages student housing in 22 states.
With respect to this development, several issues of importance to residents of both Puget and Samish Neighborhoods leap to mind immediately. They include, but are not limited to: water runoff, traffic and noise with likely resultant loss in property values. The acreage is a transition zone between purely single-family zoned neighborhoods to the east and south and the apartments/commercial development west and north at Lakeway Dr. and Lincoln St. Approval of this development would place very high density housing directly adjacent to single family homes with no intermediary buffer. Much more suited to the area is some transitional, affordable, owner-occupied housing in the form of cottage homes, duplexes, triplexes or town homes. These housing types are already defined in the Infill Tool Kit, a package especially designed for use in such transitional areas to help create the much sought after “urban village.” The city has been pushing for the use of the Tool Kit and this location would be an ideal fit under the rationale for creating the Tool Kit in the first place – urban villages. Indeed, the Puget Neighborhood Plan calls for working toward the creation of an urban village around the intersection of Lincoln St. and Lakeway Dr.
The water runoff matter may be very much underestimated by the developers. Already the runoff from impervious surfaces from the Pacific View development to the east causes sheets of water to cascade down Consolidation onto Puget St. and wash out the dirt and gravel at the road edges. Overflow from this water further descends onto the 11 acre parcel below causing drainage issues for the existing homes along the east side of Nevada St. Creating substantially more impervious surfaces between Puget St. and Nevada St. with the construction of large parking lots and buildings with extensive footprints does not make sense. The developers are counting on containing the runoff in a large vault to be built under one of the parking lots on the Nevada St. side of the complex.
The traffic produced by over 400 vehicles is likely to prove excessive for the existing street system. All cars must enter and exit the development from a single point on Consolidation Ave. where it meets 44th St. and Nevada St. These roads serve essentially a single family zoned neighborhood, with the exception of a short portion of Nevada St. near Consolidation Ave. They were not designed for such heavy use. The northern portion of Nevada St. that leads to Lakeway Dr. has no sidewalks and the paved roadway is very narrow, with either limited shoulders or, in some places, none at all. Exiting westbound onto Lakeway Dr. in heavy commuter traffic would necessitate the placement of a traffic signal at the very minimum. Additionally, there will be the constant thrumming of traffic as vehicles pour onto Consolidation in the morning and return through the same constricted entrance in the late afternoon and evening. [Note: Emergency access would be provided by an existing right-of-way onto Nevada St between two single family homes.] Given the varied nature of student schedules, traffic may be constant throughout the day. School is not a 9-5 job. It is a good bet that traffic will be considerable even into the late night on weekends and holidays. Quiet enjoyment will be out the window for the present homeowners.
Enforcing our noise ordinances is not a hallmark of the city of Bellingham. Unfortunately, this complex would become a noise maker of major proportions. Din from the city and Interstate 5 below already drifts up the hillside to Puget St. and beyond. 600 residents going about daily living, having parties, driving cars and playing outdoors (the developer wants to create common areas outdoors for grills and heated spas, etc.) will produce racket (loud conversations, shouting, singing, music, etc.) that cannot realistically be stopped at the property line. A parking overflow of cars along Nevada St. is sure to follow as non-residents visit by the hundreds on the weekends or in the evenings with the door banging, horn honking, shouting, littering and public urination that comes with many off-campus student gatherings. A good deal of this disturbance may well be in the streets around the complex, making problem behaviors out of the jurisdiction and control of the on-site managers. All they can do is call the police, as do residents now. Regrettably, law enforcement in Bellingham usually does not have sufficient personnel to respond effectively to such “low priority” calls.
The agent for the developer held a meeting on January 3rd with the Puget and Samish Neighborhood residents that was well attended. Homeowners along Nevada St., immediately to the west of the planned complex are particularly incensed about the enormous consequences of a project this size, literally looming over their houses and backyards. A recent Puget Neighborhood meeting, at which city planner Kathy Bell was in attendance, was quite animated as homeowners vented their concerns.
The developers are not without hurdles and have applied for a variance in order to increase the allowable height limit on the two buildings nearest Puget St. The code limit is 35 feet and the developers want a variance to allow buildings with a height of 58 feet. This 60% increase in building height will have view consequences for Puget St. homeowners. Surely the developers knew of this restriction when they acquired the property. Now, they want a rescue in the form of a variance from the city to the detriment of the neighborhood. Since the developers have already spent time and money on this project, presumably with a confidence that the variance will be granted, one detects a certain arrogance on their part that we frequently see in these cases. The attempt to rezone Padden Trails from single family to multi-family was one such example. Fortunately, those developers bet and lost, but only with enormous pushback from the Samish Neighborhood and several abutting neighborhoods. There will be a hearing on the University Ridge variance in front of the hearing examiner on March 20th. Unfortunately, the hearing is on the question of height only and NOT on the feasibility/desirability of the project as a whole. Without this variance, the developer faces a serious problem that limits the building height of the two structures nearest to Puget St. to the equivalent of three floors. The loss of two floors will substantially reduce the number of units for AUDG and will likely bring into question the project’s viability.
The developers are scheduled, as of now, to submit a formal application for the project on February 27th. The city then has 28 days to determine if the application is complete. After that period, a notice will go out asking for public comments. This comment period is 14 days. If substantial issues are raised during this time, they could trigger a Planning Commission meeting (likely with more public comment) on the project after the planning staff has submitted its recommendation. Planning Commission involvement or not, the city’s Planning Director is the final arbiter on issuing a permit to proceed with the construction although appeals can be made to the hearing examiner and eventually to the court system, if need be. Regrettably, we all know how costly these appeals can be for the individual neighborhoods that are supported only by volunteers and that do not have the financial means to pursue such litigation in face of well-financed developers with permanent staffs.
One can assume the developers have done their homework and there is a market for these units. $650 for a bedroom is not cheap. That translates to nearly $8,500 per year per bedroom, on top of the ballooning tuition of the last several years at WWU. This upscale complex is not likely to attract students now renting in the $300-$400 range where multiple renters pool their assets to be able to afford the monthly cost. You can now rent a home for about $1500 per month and share the cost. You could move into a 4 bedroom unit at University Ridge but the effective, combined monthly cost for that unit will be over $2500. Moreover, how many students will be willing to move into an apartment that is, according to the developers’ claim, to be tightly managed with on-site personnel 24/7? Doesn’t this sound a lot like the controlled dorms at WWU that most students avoid like the plague after their freshman year? Freedom calls.
We also need to ask ourselves a larger question about infill and the apparent incoherence when viewing some recent events. The recent attempt to stuff the Infill Tool Kit into the Padden Trails development at the extreme south edge of the city was defeated, as I alluded to above, only after a protracted series of city council meetings and a vociferous challenge by the Samish Neighborhood. The city’s planning staff and the Planning Commission provided few objections to this inappropriate “edgefill” project even in the face of its violation of the city’s own policies on infill (read the Comprehensive Plan). The move to create anything that looks like an urban village at Barkley was, in effect, trumped by the building of an enormous cinema with acres of parking that goes unused most of the time. This would have been an ideal location for the Infill Tool Kit, but instead we have created an auto-centric “entertainment” spot that will eventually attract investors to add strip-mall type buildings to justify and maximize the use of the now empty parking lot. At this time, we have an upscale University Ridge high density development proposal that necessitates a variance to be built. This plan does not respect the transitional nature of the site and prevents using the Infill Took Kit as it was intended to be used. The Tool Kit is an ideal solution and avoids all the folderol with respect to a variance. There is talk on the council of revisiting the code on the Infill Tool Kit for use in single family neighborhoods, as it has not been used by developers to date. I would first ask for a review of the coherence of the entire infill planning process and a study of the current and definite density of the neighborhoods before any additional densification is approved.
In the meantime, the city needs to put the kibosh on this super-dorm.
Wed, Jul 22, 2015, 12:42 am // Guest writerEric Hirst provides us all with a well researched report on Whatcom County water issues - rights, Lake Whatcom, ground water and more.
9 comments; last on Jul 25, 2015
Tue, Jul 14, 2015, 4:13 pm // John LesowThe fight to keep Point Roberts from becoming a Radio Tower Farm is not over.
3 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 5:38 am // Dick ConoboyBellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.
6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015
Thu, Jul 09, 2015, 8:27 am // John ServaisLois Garlick has died. For many decades, she and George served as environmental stewards and leaders in preserving wildlife and nature.
2 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Wed, Jul 08, 2015, 9:27 am // John ServaisLast minute political maneuvering by liberal council seeks to counter conservative review commission ballot proposals.
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 9:13 am // John ServaisThe Charter Review Commission made Monday evening's meeting their last - and forwarded 8 charter amendments to the County Council
3 comments; last on Jul 08, 2015
Tue, Jul 07, 2015, 5:34 am // Dick ConoboyFor Rent: York neighborhood, new, 7 bedroom single-family home, near WWU. Only $44,000 a year. City planning not paying attention.
6 comments; last on Jul 09, 2015
Mon, Jul 06, 2015, 4:30 pm // John ServaisTwo dirty tricks by the uber-conservative minority on the Charter Review Commission aimed to put their agenda before the council.
3 comments; last on Jul 07, 2015
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 2:55 pm // David CampTrees are dying for lack of water! Only citizen action can save them.
Thu, Jul 02, 2015, 7:47 am // Dick ConoboyIf your 4th of July holiday is much more quiet this year, you can thank Clay Bulter who passed away at the end of May.
Mon, Jun 29, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Samish Neighborhood Plan has been the subject of three undesired rezones in the last year. The city ignores its own guidelines to the detriment of all.
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:00 pm // John ServaisUpdated at 6 pm. Our county justice system has spent 6 years trying to teach Luba Pekisheva that she should not defend herself. Justice denied and miscarried.
8 comments; last on Jul 22, 2015
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 5:00 pm // David CampA look at the proposal in historic financial context with projections and several questions for the proponents.
8 comments; last on Jul 10, 2015
Mon, Jun 01, 2015, 3:49 am // Dick ConoboyThree extraordinarily large (7-bedroom) single family home rentals are proposed by developers Dave and Jon Hansen on Iron St. in the York Neighborhood.
7 comments; last on Jun 10, 2015
Mon, May 25, 2015, 8:17 pm // John ServaisYoung Chiara spent 3 nights hanging from the anchor chain of Shell Oil's Arctic Challenger as a protest to arctic oil drilling.
Thu, May 21, 2015, 11:50 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein we ponder the fate of humanity
Mon, May 18, 2015, 11:17 pm // John ServaisJoy Gilfilen is challenging incumbent Jack Louws for County Executive.
4 comments; last on May 20, 2015
Fri, May 15, 2015, 6:10 pm // John ServaisRunning update of who is filing for office in Whatcom County. Posts during day Friday and final update Friday evening.
4 comments; last on May 17, 2015
Wed, May 13, 2015, 5:30 pm // John ServaisUpdated | Ski to Sea race does not need to race through sensitive Chuckanut Community Forest Park for special mountain bike leg. City did not renege.
10 comments; last on May 15, 2015
Sun, Apr 26, 2015, 2:05 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley writes a second article on the increasing number of vacation rentals - and the County Council bill to let them expand dramatically.
4 comments; last on May 02, 2015
Thu, Apr 09, 2015, 5:03 am // Dick ConoboyThe Puget Neighborhood is about to become a bit more crowded but less than originally planned. 600+ students to be housed south of Fred Meyer.
6 comments; last on Apr 12, 2015
Sat, Apr 04, 2015, 1:15 pm // John ServaisThe port's latest bone-headed deal calls for the good citizens of Whatcom County to consider the options...unless we're enjoying our Groundhog Day.
3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2015
Thu, Apr 02, 2015, 8:30 pm // Tip JohnsonThe difference between a threat and a promise
5 comments; last on Apr 03, 2015
Wed, Apr 01, 2015, 12:20 am // John ServaisPort of Bellingham today sold out our public waterfront to a foreign shell company formed 6 days ago. Sold it cheap and with a screwy arrangement.
32 comments; last on Apr 05, 2015
Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 11:16 am // Guest writerKamalla Kaur worked with David Mason on his biographical materials and offers this tribute to his illustrious life.
2 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Fri, Mar 13, 2015, 5:00 am // Dick ConoboyThe Whatcom County Council has sent discussion on changing the meth ordinance back to the Public Works, Health and Safety Committee
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:06 pm // John ServaisAdd your thoughts and remembrances. Robyn du Pre` was a stalwart and true environmental advocate for Bellingham and Whatcom County. She died this week.
9 comments; last on Mar 23, 2015
Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 10:39 am // Riley SweeneyRiley shares some insight into the national political parties
5 comments; last on Mar 09, 2015
Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 6:31 am // Dick ConoboyIn a hearing, possibly on 3 March, the Whatcom County Council will consider an ordinance changing the rules for contaminated meth use sites.
1 comments; last on Feb 27, 2015
Mon, Feb 09, 2015, 6:00 am // Dick ConoboyNot all rent-to-own propositions are an unwise method to buy a home but some are schemes to rip off the unsuspecting tenant.
Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 9:34 am // Guest writerNo ballot mailed to you. You must request a ballot for voting in the Whatcom Conservation District election. Deadline to apply is Feb 9. By Barbara Perry
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:56 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Bellingham's billion dollar boondoggle is revisited
4 comments; last on Mar 03, 2015
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 9:55 am // Terry WechslerThe Lummi requested on Jan. 5, 2015, that the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, honor Art. V of the Treaty of Point Elliott and deny…
1 comments; last on Feb 04, 2015
Sun, Jan 25, 2015, 12:32 pm // Guest writerAdventures of George Pickett in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness
5 comments; last on Jan 28, 2015
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 3:15 pm // Terry WechslerThe fourth area refinery crude by rail infrastructure project to receive permits without benefit of environmental review is being appealed, and provides an opportunity to make precedent.
Fri, Jan 23, 2015, 12:13 am // John ServaisThe second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.
2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:07 am // Guest writerGuest article by Sandra Alfers. Water and sewer connections drive unwanted annexation. Trickle Creek homeowners are muzzled by a "no protest zone."
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 10:14 pm // Guest writerEllen Murphy gives us a poem for this Martin Luther King day of remembrance.
2 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 9:15 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the ridiculous is ridiculed
5 comments; last on Jan 21, 2015
Thu, Jan 08, 2015, 2:54 pm // Guest writerTani Sutley guest writes about the vacation rentals situation and presents goals for the county council to consider for improving our rural neighborhoods.
1 comments; last on Jan 10, 2015
Wed, Dec 31, 2014, 1:16 am // Guest writerDuuhhh! Try doing without it. Marian Beddill provides an overview of our rural Whatcom County water situation and the efforts to find fair solutions.
3 comments; last on Jan 08, 2015
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 1:23 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 5:04 pm // John ServaisOne part of the environmental study for the proposed Cherry Point mega coal terminal has been completed and released. It deals with ship collisions - they call it…
2 comments; last on Dec 22, 2014
Thu, Dec 18, 2014, 12:26 pm // John ServaisBellingham Public Works shows how tone deaf they can be to business concerns. They insisted on street work that takes away up to 80 parking spaces in Fairhaven…
Tue, Dec 16, 2014, 3:51 pm // Dick Conoboy7-0! City Council Unanimous. Rentals Will Be Inspected in Bellingham. Thanks go to WWU students for speaking out to city council.
5 comments; last on May 02, 2015
Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 5:05 am // Dick ConoboyThe Bellingham City Council has added an inspection component to the registration-only rental ordinance proposal of Councilmember Murphy
4 comments; last on Dec 16, 2014
Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 6:37 am // Dick ConoboyThe ban on consumer fireworks that took effect last summer is valid all year, even New Year's Eve
1 comments; last on Dec 11, 2014
Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 1:31 pm // John ServaisThe Horizon Lines ship - the many year resident of the Port of Bellingham - broke loose this morning due to failure of some system. A few photos.
3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2014
Tue, Dec 09, 2014, 2:25 am // Guest writerTani Sutley writes of how unregulated vacation rentals are invading the Lake Whatcom watershed. She urges action before the Planning Commission meeting on 11 December.
4 comments; last on Jan 03, 2015
Wed, Dec 03, 2014, 2:20 pm // Richard LewisPoet Richard Lewis reflects on Elizabeth Warren
3 comments; last on Dec 07, 2014
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 4:27 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Whatcom's Klan heritage may be oozing from some cracks
8 comments; last on Dec 06, 2014
Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 3:48 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley dives into the data with precinct maps and historical perspectives
Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 am // Dick ConoboyCampus Crest Communities, Inc. has officially offered for sale the Lincoln St. property that was to be a student apartment development.
2 comments; last on Nov 23, 2014
Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 1:51 pm // John ServaisUpdated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 2:34 pm // John ServaisOn this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…
3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014
Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 6:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.
3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014
Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 12:28 pm // John ServaisWhile smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.
6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014
Mon, Nov 03, 2014, 8:14 pm // Richard LewisPoet Richard Lewis weighs in on the Tea Party values
Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 12:29 pm // Tip JohnsonOr why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor
4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 2:18 am // John ServaisA link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.
1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014
Election InfoCounty Candidate Filings
State Elections Website
Whatcom County Elections
Coal, Oil & TrainsCoal Stop
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Bhm Biz Journal
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State Elections Website
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph