Low-barrier housing proposal in Everett moves forward

EVERETT — The city of Everett’s proposal to build apartments for homeless people took a step forward recently, despite continued opposition from people who would live nearby.

The project’s mandatory environmental review process — and its public comment period — wrapped up in March.

About half of the comments submitted in response to the city’s plans for an apartment house for homeless people were against it, and one resident collected more than 100 signatures from neighbors opposed to it.

The city has selected a site on Berkshire Drive that straddles the Pinehurst and Glacier View neighborhoods. It proposes to build a four-story 70-unit building to house the most vulnerable elements of the city’s homeless population.

Becky McCrary, the city’s housing and community development manager, said that none of the comments addressed the environmental scope of the project, but they aren’t being dismissed out of hand.

“There are a number of comments that we’re looking at in responding to the project that could influence recommendations to the hearing examiner,” McCrary said.

Those include suggestions or concerns about landscaping, parking and traffic impacts, she said.

Five of the 21 comments received were supportive of the project, and four asked the city to pay attention to specific issues such as traffic or landscaping.

More than one person stated that people frequently jaywalk across seven lanes on Evergreen Way when crossing between the Value Village and the northbound bus stop on Evergreen, instead of using the crosswalk at Pecks Drive one block north.

Constance Hoidal, the owner of a car wash and gas station at 6101 Evergreen Way, wrote that the city should put in new streetlights, flower pots and hanging baskets, public art, and clean up the strip mall in the 6300 block.

“This place is a complete mess. Garbage, graffiti, overgrown vegetation, poor signage, drug usage around the building and loitering constantly,” Hoidal wrote.

More typical of the comments was one from resident Aaron Powell, who has spoken to the City Council and in other public forums to try to prevent the project from coming into a neighborhood that already was challenged by crime and drug use.

Until now, Powell said, the hill between Evergreen Way and the neighborhood on Berkshire Drive has been a natural barrier to some of the rougher street activity.

“By building on the hill and improving the sidewalks and lighting, it will now become attractive for the happenings … to proceed up to our neighborhood,” he wrote.

“The city has lied to us about this whole project. They did not do their due diligence in telling the people of my neighborhood this was coming or that they had picked a site until it was too late to stop,” Powell said.

Powell also submitted a petition against the project that was signed by 139 people, almost all of whom live within a few blocks of the proposed housing site.

Hil Kaman, Everett’s director of public safety and health, said that the review process is the same any large project would go through.

“There’s nothing unusual about this process because it’s supportive housing,” he said.

He added that there will continue to be outreach to the neighbors as the project moves forward.

“We’re in an ongoing effort to keep our community informed,” Kaman said.

Catholic Housing Services, which operates similar facilities in Seattle and Bellingham, is the project’s developer. Ultimately, plans are for the nonprofit to own and operate the building.

The window for appeals on the environmental review closes April 19. The project then moves forward to a public hearing at 6 p.m. May 18 in the Weyerhaeuser Room of Everett Station.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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