Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood
February 26, 2008
Senator Brian Weinstein, Chair
Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee and
Members of the Committee
220 John A. Cherberg Building
P.O. Box 40441
Olympia, Washington 98504-0441
RE: SHB 3071 – Vote No, Preserve Affordable Housing
Dear Senator Weinstein and Members of the Committee,
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees urges you to vote NO on HB 3071. This bill would pave the way for acquisition and demolition of the 136-unit Laurelon Terrace condominium complex by Children’s Hospital and loss of much needed affordable housing in our area. According to the preliminary draft environmental impact statement on the proposed expansion at Children’s, it would mean a loss of approximately 21 percent of moderately priced housing in the area. Northeast Seattle cannot afford to lose this housing.
Children’s has offered Laurelon residents a premium price on their condominiums—almost three times the value of each unit. Who wouldn’t be interested in such an offer? There are young families hoping to buy a house with a yard, families with medical bills, residents hoping to afford to move into assisted living, young adults who would like to pay off student loans and investor-owners seeking a windfall profit. Residents should be well-compensated should they choose to sell to Children’s. But, this is not something that should be legislated. The parties should negotiate in good faith without resort to assistance from the Legislature.
Here are key reasons why you should vote no on SHB 3071:
1. SHB 3071 is unfair. This bill changes the rules in the middle of the game regarding dissolving the condominium complex. Eighty percent, rather than the current 100 percent owner approval would be required. When folks bought into Laurelon, they did so with full knowledge that the complex could not be dissolved without approval of all owners. This was understood and it’s unfair to change the rules now for those who would like to keep their homes.
2. This affordable housing cannot be replaced. Under local law, Children’s would be required to propose comparable replacement housing should it expand its boundaries and demolish housing. This is problematic because there is no place in the Laurelhurst / Sand Point area where such housing could be built. This is why the preliminary draft EIS states that there would be a loss of 21 percent of moderately priced housing in the area.
3. SHB 3071 is premature. Children’s Hospital is in the midst of a two-year master planning process. Children’s ambitious expansion plan must be approved at the local level and its bed expansion proposal must be approved by the State Board of Health. Because Children’s has proposed an unprecedented rezone in a low density, single-family area, there is much uncertainty about the level of expansion that will ultimately be approved. There are also major issues regarding the bed expansion and approval by the Board of Health. The Legislature should not involve itself in this process. Children’s and its supporters have essentially put the cart before the horse in seeking this change in law. Even if the Legislature chose to act, any law affecting the rights of Laurelon Terrace owners could be addressed in the 2009 legislative session.
4. A thorough legal analysis should be undertaken prior to action on SHB 3071. The Laurelon Terrace current Declaration and By-Laws require all homeowners to approve dissolution. Even if one homeowner objects, there can be no dissolution. All Laurelon homeowners are party to this agreement. While we do not have all of the specifics regarding the agreement, this should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the Legislature does not run afoul of the Contract Clause in the U.S. Constitution and its counterpart in the state constitution. Legal minds may differ, which makes it important that legislators have an independent review of the issues to assess in large part the expectations of the parties to the agreement and to avoid future litigation.
5. It is appropriate for the community to be involved in this process. Some Laurelon residents have suggested that the Laurelhurst Community Club should not be involved in their negotiations with Children’s. Well, the hostile takeover of our cherished affordable housing that cannot be replaced is our business. Expansion of Children’s major institution boundaries and the consequent impacts to our community is our business. And, preserving the livability and vitality of our community is our business. We have reviewed Children’s offer and have provided that analysis to you. Yes, Laurelon residents who wish to sell should be compensated well, but Children’s offer has so many contingencies, we doubt whether residents will ever receive their windfall. The deal is contingent upon this bill passing. It is also contingent upon final approval of Children’s master plan on terms acceptable to Children’s—tough hurdles before Laurelon residents would receive the compensation they would like to see. There are no explicit protections for Laurelon owners in the offer. This should change. More time is necessary to allow Children’s and Laurelon to develop a workable agreement.
We urge you to vote NO on SHB 3071. We have enclosed our statement to our representatives in the House and other documents. Thank you for considering the views of our community council.
Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631