Tag Archives: Seattle Department of Planning and Development

Seattle Drum School uncertain about future, DPD clarifies permit status

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Steve Smith, owner of the Seattle Drum School, is shown at the building in north Seattle on May 4, 2013. (seattlepi.com photo used with permission)

As music education in Seattle Public Schools has continued to wither away, the Seattle Drum School on 15th Avenue NE and NE 125th Street has grown. For the past 27 years the school has educated students on an expanding list of musical instruments and voice lessons. The school’s 40 teachers  currently teach about 600 students..

Voice teacher Lorrie Ruiz, left, works with student Heather Newton during a lesson at the Seattle Drum School in north Seattle on May 4, 2013. (seattlepi.com photo, used with permission)

Voice teacher Lorrie Ruiz, left, works with student Heather Newton during a lesson at the Seattle Drum School in north Seattle on May 4, 2013. (seattlepi.com photo, used with permission)

But recently, owner Steve Smith has struggled with City of Seattle officials, casting doubt on the future of the much-loved north Seattle business.

The Seattle P-I reports that as the school grew, they took over more rooms in the aging two-story building they occupy behind the Brown Bear Car Wash. The now-deceased landlord partitioned the rooms, yet never applied for building permits, as he moved the school into an ever-expanding space in his building.

The P-I said that each year the school passed fire inspections when visited by the fire marshal. But after they added a performance space in the rear of the building —and a complaint was filed— a visit in 2011 by a Department of Planning and Development inspector noted Smith’s space needed major upgrades.

drumschool2First reported by The Stranger last week, Smith said that his school may be forced to close if ordered to comply with upgrades ordered by the Department of Planning and Development. Smith said the City of Seattle appeared to change the classification of his business to classification “E.” Smith told The Stranger that change “subjects us to the same safety requirements and other standards as a public school that’s publicly funded, with 30 kids per classroom.” He said that most of their business consists of a single professional offering services to a single client, in one room at a time.

Smith told The Stranger that the City of Seattle had started legal proceedings against the business.

However, after the initial stories were published in The Stranger and on KOMO/4 (video report embedded below) the DPD responded that they just needed clarification and that they now do not believe fire suppression sprinklers are needed.

“We’re not going to require an onerous update to a building if it’s not needed for the safety of occupants,” department spokesman Bryan Stevens told the P-I. “We support local business, but our mission is to make sure that the occupants of a building are safe. The only way we can verify that is through review of a building permit.”

So for now the City of Seattle will keep the school classified as fine arts school, something that doesn’t subject them to the same safety requirements as a school. But the City has not ruled out fines for the delays in permits.

You can see a KOMO/4 story on the Seattle Drum School below.

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Valor Apartments Meeting



Tomorrow ( Wednesday, January 9th ) from 6pm to 9pm at the Lake City Community Center, DPD will be holding an open house meeting  for public comment / review of the Valor Apartments permit application. Below is an open letter that was sent to Council Member Richard Conlin ( the chair of the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. ) The Mayor's office and all Council Members were copied. 


Council Member Conlin-

I apologize for the late notice on this meeting. I also apologize for the length of this email, but there is an important point to be made regarding inaccuracies from the Office of Housing that may affect HUD funding as well as SEPA review. 
( This email will be posted also as an open letter on the DPC website. )

On Wednesday, January 9th at the Lake City Community Center from 6 to 9 pm  DPD will be hosting a meeting to get public input on the Valor Apartment project. The permit has not yet been issued and the meeting was scheduled in response to a petition signed by over 100 residents in Lake City. 

I am attaching a photograph of the notice board that went up last year. Most people took this at face value, only to learn much later in the review process what was really intended. 



The community has very serious concerns about the siting of this project:


1. The language on the Notice board is deceptive.

The Notice board at the site reads “To construct a 4 story residential structure with 21 units above a 1,500 sf community center at ground level. Existing structures to be demolished.”

The 21 “residential” units are intended to house individuals / veterans with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and drug addiction. They will require staff supervision.

The “community center” on the first floor is intended to be a Psychiatric Clinic for residents and a Homeless Drop In Center - a continuation of the Mennonite's God's lil Acre which appears to be an unregistered non profit operating as a pseudo clinic on a harm reduction model with no governmental oversight. 


2. The proposed project may not comply with City Council’s ELI threshold

The limit for Extremely Low Income housing is 20% of all the housing in the area ( the Census Block Group ).

The adjacent block group  is currently at 30% ELI housing ( per OH data ). 33rd from 125th to 130th is at 43.5% ELI,  and the north half of the HUV is at 21% ELI . ( see maps )

This project continues a trend toward poor siting decisions for ELI housing that is increasing the concentration of poverty in our Hub Urban Village - against the Department of Housing and Urban Development's  guiding principle of reducing poverty by by creating mixed income neighborhoods. 


3. There is a 75 unit building for homeless individuals and veterans on the same block.

Some of the residents at McDermott place have addiction issues. Residency there does not require they be clean and sober. 


4. There is a children’s playground, immigrant family housing,  and a new park space directly across the street.



For your reference, I am also attaching two maps. The first is a map that shows Census Block Group 1.3 in the project area at 30% ELI. This map is from the Office of Housing. This number has been revised increasingly upward since I first started investigating it on June 20th of 2012. It started at 9.9% and I am concerned that land use and HUD funding decisions are being made with incorrect data. I want to make sure that yourself and your fellow council members have the most recently corrected map and data and are aware of these changes in relationship to the HUD funding earmarked for this project. 
The last attachment is a map I composed of the Hub Urban Village. The numbers are from the King County Tax Assessor site as well as data from OH. Please note that if you isolate the north half of the Lake City Hub Urban Village, we are at 21% ELI. Although the consolidated plan's siting policy uses Census Block Groups as the bounds for determining the 20% threshold, we believe that the HUV bounds are more pertinent. Also note that the ELI concentration jumps to 43.5% when looking at just 33rd Ave from 125th to 130th - the street the project is proposed for.   



If you made it this far, then thank you for your time. I appreciate it and hope to see you tomorrow.