Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households and Businesses in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

February 6, 2008

 

Representative Phyllis Kenney

330 John L. O'Brien Building

P.O. Box 40600

Olympia, WA 98504-0600

 

Representative Jim McIntire

314 John L. O'Brien Building

P.O. Box 40600

Olympia, WA 98504-0600

 

RE:      HB 3071 – Vote No, Preserve Affordable Housing

 

Dear Representatives Kenney and McIntire,

 

            The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees urges you to vote NO on HB 3071.  This bill would pave the way for acquisition of the 136-unit Laurelon Terrance 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.  Seattle cannot afford to lose this housing. 

 

Our seniors and moderate income neighbors should not be forced to leave their homes.  Many purchased condominiums in the beautiful Laurelon garden community to be close to their kids who live in the neighborhood.  There is nothing comparable in the neighborhood that is affordable.  It has been suggested that a majority of condominium owners at Laurelon want to sell to Children’s.  We find no evidence to support this assertion.  It is our perception that many Laurelon owners are scared with no place to go and the real possibility that Children’s could terminate the condominiums and convert the property to its own uses.

 

There is nothing that prohibits Children’s from purchasing individual units and Children’s is in the process of doing just that.  As of January 29, 2008, Children’s has purchased 20 units in Laurelon, representing 15.2 percent of the total ownership.  If you pass HB 3071, purchasing just a few more units would give Children’s what it wants—80 percent ownership and the right to terminate the condominium complex.  Children’s has already proposed expanding its major institution boundaries to confiscate the complex. 

 

Children’s supporters have also said that HB 3071 is necessary to allow termination of dilapidated and devalued condominiums.  They say that older condominiums continue to age and become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain.  Finally, they say that the rational decision to shut down a condominium can be thwarted by a single, irrational hold-out owner.  Well, Laurelon Terrace is a charming, well-maintained garden complex.  Where is the evidence to support such unfounded assertions?  It is obvious that this bill was intended only to benefit Children’s Hospital.  If there are other examples, why haven’t they surfaced?

 

Proponents of the bill say it would merely harmonize the State’s regulation of condominium termination procedures by allowing termination by agreement of 80 percent of the ownership, whereas the older condominium law governing Laurelon requires 100 percent agreement.  Just what problem is the bill trying to fix, particularly in light of the loss of much needed affordable housing?

 

            While the Laurelhurst Community Club supports the mission of Children’s Hospital and its great work, LCC has major concerns with its proposed expansion plans.  Children’s is proposing 2.4 million square feet of development—1.5 million more than the approximately 900,000 square feet that is built on its Laurelhurst campus in Seattle.  Seattle’s Code requires “a reasonable balance of the public benefits of development and change with the need to maintain livability and vitality of adjacent neighborhoods” (SMC 23.69.032E.2).   Children’s has not made its case for expansion at the level it has proposed.

 

            This has been confirmed in a recent study prepared by Field Associates, specialists in healthcare and hospital planning, “Study of Bed Projections for Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Based on Department of Health 12-Step Method.”  A hospital must obtain a certificate of need to expand its number of beds.  In this regard, the study notes that the State Department of Health allocates a statewide pool of hospital beds according to geographic region and service type to ensure against over-expansions detrimental to the public interest. 

 

The study concludes:

 

Unnecessary hospital beds are expensive to the community.

The Department of Health 12-step method tells us the minimum number of hospital beds required in order to benefit patients and the public but it also places a ceiling on the desired number of beds.  Nevertheless, CHRMC’s proposal of 350 new beds appears to be approximately ten times the actual number required at CHRMC twenty years from today. 

 

In light of such an oversupply, CHRMC’s proposal may not provide a public benefit that outweighs its negative impacts.  Based on just the numeric need methodology of the Department, CHRMC’s proposal to add 350 acute care beds is not consistent with the mandate established by the legislature nor with the public benefit balancing required by in the Major Institutions chapter of Seattle’s Land Use Code.  Rather, by unnecessarily duplicating hospital beds, the CHRMC Master Plan can be expected to have unwanted impacts on the financial and program viability of other hospitals and to unnecessarily increase the cost of health care both locally and in the state.  Under-used hospital beds put extra costs into the health care system, thus driving up the taxes and health care premiums we all pay to support it.  As the Washington legislature stated, when hospitals over-build, “that excess capacity of health services and facilities place considerable economic burden on the public.”

 

Children’s is asking the public and decision-makers to support and approve an unprecedented rezone and development expansion in a low density, single family area that is outside of any urban village or center.  This is inconsistent with Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, Major Institutions Code and other laws and policies.  As this relates to HB 3071, we believe it is also inconsistent with the intent of the current Washington Condominium Act (WCA), RCW 64.34, the provisions of which would supercede the earlier Horizontal Property Regimes Act that governs Laurelon Terrace.

 

            The WCA recognizes that cities and counties under the growth management act (GMA) are required to encourage urban growth in urban growth areas at densities that accommodate 20-year growth projections.  Children’s is not located in an urban growth area.  The intent section of RCW 64.34.005 goes on to say that the GMA’s planning goals include encouraging the availability of affordable housing.   Finally, the intent section concludes:

 

It is the intent of the legislature that limited changes be made to the condominium act to ensure that a broad range of affordable homeownership opportunities continue to be available to the residents of the state, and to assist cities' and counties' efforts to achieve the density mandates of the growth management act.

 

Providing Children’s with the right to terminate the Laurelon Terrance condominiums is inconsistent with the GMA.

 

            Children’s expansion plans are in stark contrast to the plans of Swedish Medical Center to build its future eastside hospital in the Issaquah Highlands, a project opposed by Children’s in a joint appeal to the State Board of Health.  That project will include a pediatrics unit, ten operating rooms and a neurology department in Issaquah where population has grown by 26 percent in one year alone.  The planned Swedish Hospital location is “greenfield,” and involves no loss of affordable housing and avoids the many other unmitigatable impacts associated with Children’s plans.  

 

            We hope you will vote NO on HB 3071 and encourage your colleagues to also vote NO.  Thank you for considering the views of our community.

 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net

 

cc:  Speaker Frank Chopp