Reaching out to community members for thoughts on development

Development is coming to Eastlake like it or not. How much the community has a say in it will depend on how much the community speaks up.

As one Eastlake resident noted, “What is happening in Eastlake reminds me of the 60’s and 70’s when the Eastlake community was faced with the end of the houseboat community and the onslaught of over-water condos and other large-scale developments, with the city council pushing growth like they did back then. “

There is no avoiding growth now, but there is some funneling of what that growth will look like with community feedback.

A couple of years ago the Eastlake Community Council formed a land use committee. They have been tracking development in Eastlake, assisting in the public comment process, and posting information about each new project on the ECC website. One of their goals is to help define the type of development the community wants. With that in mind, the Eastlake News reached out to a handful of community activists (not by any means all) to ask for their thoughts.

A few people mentioned preserving Eastlake’s legacy businesses. “I love Eastlake for its mix from fine restaurants to heavy industry,” noted one. “A chronic worry of mine is that rising land values may drive out Lake Union Drydock and other heavy industry.”

Others hoped to save Eastlake legacy trees (perhaps in a nod to Eastlake’s growing birding enthusiasts). “No matter what the buildings look like, or function as, if they are allowed to become all hardscape without large trees, Eastlake development will continue the march to becoming a more forbidding and unhealthful place, with fewer and fewer birds.”

Trees and landscaping are high priorities as well as setbacks, variety, and high-quality natural materials. Also, more ground-level retail.

 “For townhomes there should be variability in the design. Seeing the monotonous townhome buildings make the neighborhood lose character beyond being ugly. We can see some of the older townhomes are so boring and dilapidated after a few years. Greenery is a must. For larger buildings, keep including brick as this is timeless. Any developments along Eastlake Ave should absolutely include retail space/restaurant space to continue to make this neighborhood more walkable and livable without a car.”

Affordability is also a concern, “I just saw a flyer in my Eastlake mailbox that crowed about two floating home sales of over $3M each…that’s not a good harbinger for affordable housing in the houseboat community.” (Or anywhere else in Eastlake.)

The following list is a compilation of other thoughts on development. This is by no means a final list or even an agreed upon list. It is still an evolving conversation. Your input and thoughts would be appreciated. We welcome your feedback at or in the comments below.

Thoughts on Development

Scale/facades/relationship to the street: Buildings can be made to look large and imposing or not … let’s have not, even on Eastlake Avenue; buildings setback from the sidewalk on Eastlake allowing some plants would soften the facades. Also, maintaining setbacks from alleys should be a priority. Our alleys should be respected as pedestrian walkways and recognized as the front for many residences: trash, recycling and compost bins should be located within buildings or surrounded by attractive fencing or walls.

Decorative elements:
– structural or pseudo-structural elements: e.g., columns, brackets, banding, brick set in interesting patterns,
– windows: shapes borrowed from older neighborhood buildings, inset as opposed to flush with exterior wall, framed
– authenticity of materials, e.g., no big square pieces of brick veneer that have simulated bricks. Facades with non-structural real bricks are fine.

Doorways: clearly identified with details

Garage entries: should not be prominent, especially leading to primary streets where we’re trying to encourage pedestrian traffic, e.g., Eastlake. If gated, the gates should be attractive, possibly with decorative elements.

Fences: 5′ or 6’ fences across front yards should be set back from the sidewalk for some plants; we could end up with sidewalks unattractive for pedestrian traffic if everyone can put up a 5′ or 6’ fence or wall along the sidewalk.

Large walls without windows or some detailing shouldn’t be allowed: Decorative screens or a frame to guide vines could break them up. Murals, sculptural elements, e.g., bas relief would also accomplish this. The fire codes prevent windows on walls along property lines, but maybe buildings in villages like Eastlake shouldn’t sit on the property lines. These feel like downtown buildings.

Landscaping and Trees: Where overhead wires don’t interfere, canopy trees should be required. We should require minimum 3” caliper trees. Planting bushes and trees that are friendly to birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife should be prioritized.

Water retention: Require properties to design natural or mechanical systems to retain the first inch of rain during a storm.

Child Compatible Floorplans:  Children are the only essential component of neighborhood. Children create the self-interest to maintain attractive and safe sidewalks.  Parents – and all others interested in our better future – want sidewalks safe for caretakers pushing strollers, and safe for children out exploring alone.  Unfortunately, the economics of multi-unit construction works against 2-3-4 bedroom/2-3 bath floorplans.  These floorplans are also essential for families who hire live-in caretakers during the concluding portions of the lifespan spectrum.

Ground Relations:  Neighborhood is different from community.  A community can be a high rise where residents share the rooftop and gym room, or in a shared house where they share a kitchen. But to be a neighborhood there are certain essential dependences and relationships that are almost all based on sidewalk interactions – immediate and close by.  Windows that open, balconies, sitting stoops, planting strips with flowers and vegetables help foster neighborly greetings. It’s pretty difficult to recognize a friend on the sidewalk from above the fourth floor, so housing in neighborhoods shouldn’t exceed four stories.

Re-Charging Parking:  We are bifurcating future populations. Housing without on-site parking as gasoline fuel becomes obsolete effectively deprives those future residents of the choice of personal all-weather transportation. Healthy housing of the future requires slow-trickle overnight re-charging.  Housing without re-charging excludes gig, trades and traveling workers dependent on their personal vehicles.

Condo Retail:  The days of an Eastlake Avenue shopkeeper owning the whole property are long gone.  But owning what the shopkeeper is tending daily is the age-old strategy to long-term personal success, with neighborhood improvement a predictable byproduct. For this reason, I generally prefer the mixed-use projects on the arterial be residential condo over ground level retail condo.

Suggested Zoning Changes:

·      Prohibit further single-use office in Eastlake – we’ve got plenty enough. 

·      Require 1 on-site parking space per unit in residential buildings but allow less – down to 3 (needed for move-in/out and the trades) — by variance. 

·      Roll back the Midrise-80 Feet zoning on Boylston to Lowrise-3. 

·      Limit all Lowrise to 40 feet in height.

·      Require front setbacks that encourage conversations among residents and neighbors.

·      Require all new residential structures to have a minimum 20% child-compatible floorplans.

Desired Commerce: Recognizing first Eastlake already has: bakery, pharmacy, flower shop, pizza parlors, pool tables, fine dining, casual dining, automobile repair, wedding dresses, alterations, dry cleaning, deli, wine shop, convenience stores, massage, gym, physical therapy, mental therapy, and Patrick’s Fly Shop.

We might want: waterfront storage for water craft, small twin-screen movie theater, electric bike/scooter rental/repair (near Eastlake & Fairview), pre-schools (multiple), tutoring (attracts scholarly residents/employees), apartment manager/housing provider training (Eastlake becomes best practices mecca), shoe repair, for-profit community newspaper (“Ship Canal Gazette”), and an ice cream shoppe!

Again, the above list is made up of suggestions from individuals and is not necessarily the stance of the Eastlake Community Council or its Land Use Committee. Have thoughts about Eastlake development? Please send your comments to the ECC at And check out the ECC website for information about new developments in the neighborhood and how you can comment on them at

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