The property is currently for sale. The following article appears in the September 2017 issue of Laurelhurst Letter.
Talaris Land Use: Then Until Now...
Recently, the Laurelhurst Community Club, the City of Seattle, and 4000 Properties LLC, (the current owner of the Talaris site, the former Battelle Institute site), signed off on an agreement closing out a lawsuit about the property that had lingered without decision in King County Superior Court for almost four years. The dismissal agreement does not resolve any of the parties’ various claims and defenses. Instead it leaves them for future resolution, if necessary.
The Battelle site has been a focus of community concern for over three decades. Originally permitted as an “institute for advanced study” under the Seattle Zoning Code, by the mid-1980s its conference and event venue business had become a source of neighborhood complaints related to traffic and parking. Responding to Battelle plans for expansion, LCC through its land use counsel, Peter Eglick, brought the community’s concerns to a legal proceeding before the Seattle Hearing Examiner in 1988. The outcome was a Hearing Examiner decision that called into question not only whether Battelle was entitled to expand, but also whether it could continue with some aspects of its existing operation.
Battelle sued in King County Superior Court to overturn that decision. Ultimately, Battelle also entered into settlement negotiations with LCC and the City. The negotiations resulted in a 1991 “Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land.” The Agreement, recorded in the King County land records, applies to the site regardless of any change in ownership. It includes provisions regulating expansion of the current uses and buildings, barring control by major institutions such as the University of Washington or Children’s Hospital, and prescribes a specific landscaping plan and parameters for the site.
Over the years since entry into the Settlement Agreement, LCC has monitored site activity and redevelopment plans and has occasionally been forced to take formal legal action. For example, a proposal two decades ago to convert and develop the site into a facility for Seattle Community Colleges, violating the Settlement Agreement, prompted a Club lawsuit. The community college plan was dropped, followed by withdrawal of lawsuit.
LCC has also worked with site owners and potential developers for the site. More recently, renewed owner moves toward site redevelopment resulted in another round of negotiations between LCC and the owner. These were largely unsuccessful. At the same time, the owner asked the City Council to move on changes to the City’s single-family land use planning designation for the site. The Club opposed this change as unwarranted, and the City Council did not adopt it.
In 2013, as knowledge spread of an owner plan to divide the site into over 80 lots for development, some community members became concerned about how that might effect the site’s building and landscape design, notable examples of work by prominent Seattle architects. A landmark nomination was submitted to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board and by November 2013 the Battelle/Talaris’ exteriors of the existing buildings and site were designated as land marked status.
A landmark designation is not an empty honor. Instead it can carry a significant regulatory punch through “controls and incentives” adopted by the Board after negotiations with the property owner. Therefore, in response to the designation, the 4000 Properties LLC owner sued the City challenging the designation and attacking the actions and fairness of the Board and the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance itself. In response, and to protect the integrity of the landmark process, LCC successfully moved to intervene in the lawsuit in December 2013.
For three years, the lawsuit proceeded based on the position that the owner just needed a few more months to work out a possible sale or other deal concerning the property. LCC protested, pointing out that the owner had made the choice to file the lawsuit and could make the choice to withdraw it if it was interfering with plans for disposal of the site. After almost three years had passed, the court finally said no to yet another extension, telling the owner either to proceed with the lawsuit or withdraw it. The owner dropped the lawsuit with the understanding that he may re-bring its claims later. At that time, the owner also entered into a “neighborly agreement” concerning mowing the site lawn.
For the first time in almost four years there is no pending litigation concerning the site. Meanwhile the Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running With the Land continue to apply.
One more piece of the continuing Talaris site puzzle is still outstanding. Over the same period of years starting with the 2013 landmark designation of the site to the present, the volunteer Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has granted the owner extension after extension of the time frame for agreeing to “controls and incentives” implementing the landmark designation. Another such extension was granted in early July. LCC continues to participate in this important city process.
LCC also continues to monitor the situation as property “for sale” announcements come and go and proposed uses are floated.
May 6, 2016
View the new concept plan for the Academy for Precision Learning here.
Article from the Laurelhurst Letter:
Coming to Terms with the Best Alternative
LCC continues its efforts to achieve the best possible Talaris alternative for our community.
LCC’s February 24 Constant Contact alert notified subscribers that DPD granted petitions organized by LCC requesting a public meeting about the owner’s application to subdivide the Talaris site for development into 82 lots. DPD also agreed that an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared about proposed site redevelopment.
About 75 neighbors attended the February 27 public meeting held by DPD at the Laurelhurst Community Center to seek comments on the environmental scoping for redevelopment of the 18-acre Battelle/Talaris property (Project #3015404, 4000 NE 41st Street). More than a dozen speakers addressed concerns at the meeting and more than 112 persons submitted written comments as of February 28. Written comments can be viewed by searching for the permit number at www.seattle.gov/dpd.
The owner’s representatives have consistently talked about their interest in preservation of the site yet have submitted an application for an 82-lot subdivision that would essentially destroy the open space and tree canopy. The recent construction of chain link fencing around the site violates the terms of the Settlement Agreement with LCC, as does failing to provide required notice to LCC on this and other actions taken. The 1991 “Settlement Agreement and Covenants Running with the Land” includes a series of covenants, explicitly enforceable by LCC, that continue to bind Battelle’s successors, including the current owner.
Nothing should be left to assumption or chance in DPD’s review. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be a careful and comprehensive study of the subdivision application, alternatives to it, impacts associated with the subdivision and with alternative development plans, and mitigation.
Other alternatives should be studied in the draft EIS as well. A separate single-family alternative that would preserve the maximum amount of open space and tree canopy, protect and enhance the wetlands, safeguard the habitat of the nesting eagles, and preserve public access to which the public is legally entitled should be included in the draft EIS. A clustered single-family development — or planned residential development — would provide incentives for site preservation, can be developed to achieve the goals the owner is ascribing to in its 82-unit subdivision proposal, and should be included as an alternative.
The owner’s representatives have indicated their real interests are a new hotel, commercial uses, and office development and have said that such development is the only path for site preservation. But, the owner has not disclosed specifics of what that proposed development would involve and has not submitted an application for those uses.
That sets up a false choice for the community and DPD. Intensive hotel, office, and commercial redevelopment has the potential for consuming and impacting large portions of the site, despite the landmark designation, with impacts on the surrounding community as bad or worse than those from an appropriate residential development that respects current site amenities.
Any lease or control of the property by major institutions such as Seattle Children’s Hospital or the University of Washington — something prohibited by the Land Use Code — must be disclosed and studied. The owner has indicated that those institutions are likely the only parties who could readily afford the rent.
Any option that will be presented to the Landmarks Board during the controls and incentives process should be disclosed and studied in the draft EIS.
Daylighting Yesler Creek should be studied in all alternatives. The owner should be required to submit a plan for daylighting the underground pipe to improve the riparian corridor and protect and restore the natural creek. This would include appropriate setbacks and shoreline habitat protection.
The draft EIS must also disclose and analyze the potential effects of the owner’s lawsuit to invalidate the site’s historic designation.
To date, the owner has refused to withdraw the subdivision application and has sued to invalidate the site’s historic designation. The owner also has disregarded the rules requiring consultation with the Landmarks Board before filing the subdivision application and cutting trees.
LCC is interested in an environmentally responsible development that is compatible with the surrounding community. Neither the 82-lot development nor the hotel/commercial/office space scenarios accomplish these goals. These, as well as other more moderate alternatives, must be included in the draft EIS. Impacts on the wetlands, nesting eagles, riparian corridor, parking, traffic, transportation infrastructure, and the cumulative impacts of other development in the area must be studied.
DPD will continue to accept written comments throughout the Talaris EIS scoping process:
PRC@seattle.gov and Lindsay.King@seattle.gov or:
Seattle Department of Planning and Development
Attn: Lindsay King, Senior Land Use Planner
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019
Include the project number and address: Project #3015404, 4000 NE 41st Street.
Newsletter Update on Talaris Property
On November 25, 2013, the property owner filed a Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) appeal in Superior Court seeking to invalidate the City’s November 6 historic landmark designation. LCC filed a motion December 13 to intervene, which was granted January 7, meaning LCC will have a place at the table in the lawsuit and that the court has recognized that LCC has a legally cognizable interest in the fate of the property.
LCC is meeting with representatives from Talaris, Historic Seattle, Wash. Trust for Historic Preservation, and Friends of Battelle/Talaris to discuss future use, development and preservation of the site.
Make your views known by July 11, 2013!
Send an Email
Written comments on the proposal will be accepted through 5 p.m. July 11, 2013. The volume of email messages will make an impact!
Please send comments to
Sara Nelson at 206-684-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
Councilmember Richard Conlin,
Talaris Owner Seeks Upzone to Multi-Family
Current City of Seattle land-use code allows developers generous leeway to build environmentally sensitive single-family zoned developments, even with some clustering to create and preserve trees and open space. To date, Talaris owner's representatives only show a "cookie cutter" single-family scenario of 90 homes that is not thought to be buildable and would eliminate open green space and sensitive environmental areas.
Laurelhurst neighbors have expressed strong concerns about about the proposal including:
This property is located between NE 41st St. and NE 44th St., just south of where NE 45th St. becomes Sand Point Way (east of the Center for Urban Horticulture and Yesler Swamp). The site has been the subject of considerable neighborhood interest over many years.
With the sale of Talaris Institute in 2012, the property owner is exploring redevelopment options. Naturally, the nature of any proposed change is of concern to the neighborhood as the preservation of this beautiful, 18-acre "urban oasis" is highly valued. LCC does not believe that either of the owner's currently presented options (rental apartments or 90 single-family home sites) is the right approach.
LCC continues to work with its legal, land use, and architectural consultants to devise a better solutions for the site's development in an effort to balance the neighborhood's quality-of-life issues with the property owner's desire for a reasonable return on investment.
Articles from the Laurelhurst Letter:
Talaris Site Zoning Update / Background
The Talaris property owner is asking the City of Seattle to approve a Comprehensive Plan amendment for 2014 consideration that would upzone the property from single-family to multi-family. Laurelhurst Community Club has said NO, do not include this proposed amendment on the policy docket for further review and consideration. Thank you to all who submitted written comments, signed the iPetition, and/or attended the July 11 public hearing held by the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee regarding this critical issue.
LCC has monitored land use at the Battelle (now Talaris) site for three decades through a succession of owners and uses. It has come to the fore again, with a proposal by the current owner to change the site’s zoning designation from single-family to multi-family and to upzone and redevelop the site with a combination of predominantly multi-family (rental) and commercial uses.
LCC does not oppose responsible redevelopment of the site. It has however expressed reservations to the City Council about the current owner’s proposal. LCC has pointed out that the City’s Land Use Code includes flexible options for redevelopment of single-family sites that should be publicly explored before wholesale re-designation of the site away from its long-standing single-family zoning.
The City Council will decide later this summer whether the owner’s request for re-designation as multi-family will go forward for study and a subsequent up-or-down decision. LCC has suggested to the Council that moving the question forward now would be premature, because the owner has yet to make the case that the current single-family zoning, including its Planned Residential Development (PRD) provisions, won’t work. Even if the Council does forward the proposed re-designation to multi-family for study, its ultimate adoption is not at all a certainty.
Community members interested in the fate of the site should join LCC in monitoring the situation closely and letting the Mayor (and would-be Mayors) and Councilmembers (and would-be Councilmembers) know your views. (See LCC’s website for updates.)
To date, the owner’s arguments for “my way” – the multi-family upzone and rental housing plan – or “the highway” – the 90-unit subdivision that the owner says must obliterate trees and open space – have not persuaded the LCC Trustees. LCC has pointed out that the 90-unit single-family proposal the owner’s agents have deployed does not utilize the Planned Residential Development (PRD) chapter of the Single Family Code. Per the Code the purpose of a PRD is to provide flexibility for single-family development:
A PRD is intended to enhance and preserve natural features, encourage the construction of affordable housing, allow for development and design flexibility, and protect and prevent harm in environmentally critical areas. PRDs allow clustering, townhouses, row houses, cottage housing, density bonuses, preservation of landscaping, open space, environmentally critical areas and all the elements that should go into responsible redevelopment of the Battelle site. Meanwhile, the underlying single-family zoning – an important factor – is preserved.
An Overview of LCC’s History of Involvement with this Site
The site was originally developed as an Institute for Advanced Study (“IAS”) by the Battelle Memorial Institute, one of several in the Washington and around the country. However, by the late 1980s, Laurelhurst neighbors noticed increasing off-site impacts, particularly related to parking and traffic. It appeared that the site use had evolved into a venue available for hire for conferences, events, unrelated to any IAS function. Even as the impacts of those uses were spilling out into the surrounding neighborhood, Battelle indicated it intended to expand despite community concerns and requests for a mitigation agreement.
As a result, LCC opposed Battelle’s plans before the Seattle Hearing Examiner. Our attorney, Peter Eglick, argued that Battelle’s use, even as an IAS, was “nonconforming” under the City’s Land Use Code and that expansion was not permitted. The City’s Hearing Examiner, Honorable Leroy McCullough, now a respected King County Superior Court judge, ruled for LCC. As a result, Battelle came to the negotiating table. In a 1991 binding settlement agreement facilitated by then City Council Land Use Committee Chair Sue Donaldson, LCC agreed to support a Land Use Code amendment to make Battelle’s IAS use conforming. In return, Battelle agreed to parameters for expansion and mitigation so that its impacts were largely contained on the site. Landscaping standards and preservation were also built into the agreement. Another key aspect prohibited Battelle from giving control of the site to any Seattle Major Institution, such as the University of Washington or Children’s Hospital.
That settlement agreement proved durable over the years. It was a significant factor in turning back a proposal to convert the site to Seattle Community College use in the 1990s and it has provided a base over the years for negotiation of redevelopment plans with various site owners. The last such renegotiation was in 2005 when, after months of working with the owner’s representatives, LCC Trustees signed off on settlement agreement amendments for elaborate expansion of the site’s IAS, while maintaining the underlying single-family zoning. However, despite representations made to LCC, the redevelopment was not implemented.
The Owner Now Demands a Rezone to Multi-Family
It is that same owner who has now demanded that the City rezone the site to multi-family from single family so that it can be developed largely with multi-family residential and commercial uses. The owner’s agents claim that the current single-family zoning does not allow for preservation of open space and trees on the site. They have insisted that a 90-unit cookie cutter plat with wholesale redevelopment of environmentally critical areas, loss of open space, and removal of trees must occur if the rezone to multi-family is not approved. And the owner’s representatives have threatened from the start that if the rezone is not allowed, the owner will proceed with this subdivision alternative.
Talaris Updates: Landmark Nomination / Owner Courts City for Upzone to Develop Plans
At LCC’s April board meeting, Friends of Battelle/Talaris presented its Seattle Landmark Nomination Report. The nomination will move through the review process sometime this summer. If the property is ultimately designated as a historic landmark, its development would require public hearings and reviews. Development is not prohibited but must conform with the original integrity of the design.
Here is a summary from the Friends’ letter to the board: “Friends of Battelle/Talaris is a grassroots group of Laurelhurst neighbors who have come together as advocates for the preservation of the Battelle Memorial Institute Seattle Research Center/Talaris Conference Center. We care deeply about the community and value the former Battelle property as one of the most historically and architecturally significant sites in the neighborhood and the city. The nomination was prepared by six of us: Roberta Cation and Story Swett and their daughter, Jackie Swett, Kate Hokanson, Jeff Davies, and Janice Sutter.
“We believe that this site, including the landscape, wetlands and buildings, meets the designation criteria for listing as a Seattle landmark. Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian, has confirmed our opinion of its significance by determining it is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Also in April, 4000 Property LLC informed LCC that they have submitted a draft Seattle Municipal Code text amendment to the City DPD for review and consideration. George Thurtle and 4000 Property representatives have met with City Council members to present their plan to upzone the Talaris site from its single-family (SF) designation to one that accommodates multi-family housing. They expect the Council to vote on this in August. Should the Council not give them what they want, they intend to “focus our efforts solely on the zoned single-family (SF) option.” (90+ lots) It has been suggested that the property owner may choose to sell the property to another developer instead of pursuing the single-family option. Their preferred development alternative would yield between 250 and 333 market rate apartments and a short plat for 8 single-family residences. This alternative would be a substantial increase in density in the neighborhood. Their ultimate intention may be to sell the developed property to a real estate investment trust (REIT), in which case local ownership likely would be lost. Talaris Living website
LCC continues to work with its legal, land use, and architectural consultants to devise a better solution for the site’s development in an effort to balance the neighborhood’s quality-of-life issues with the property owner’s desire for a reasonable return on investment. LCC’s goals are to preserve green space, absorb manageable density, offer ownership opportunities in new housing units, and develop smart plans for transportation mitigation that will be important with any increased use of the site. LCC is hopeful that the property owners will develop a legacy plan that meets both their needs and the desires of the community.
February 2013 Challenges and Opportunities Lie Ahead for Redevelopment of Talaris Site A bit of site history: November 2012 Talaris Property in Play for Development ARCHIVE NEWSLETTER ARTICLES: HISTORY – Letters and Statements about the Battelle (now Talaris) Site:
If you have not already done so, please take a moment to pay LCC 2013 annual dues and consider making an extra donation toward the expenses involved with contracting consultants to assist with strategies around the developing Talaris plans.
With the recent sale of Talaris Institute, the property owner is exploring redevelopment options. Naturally, the nature of any proposed change is of concern to the neighborhood. The preservation of this beautiful, 18-acre “urban oasis,” is highly valued.
In the next month or two, the Laurelhurst Community Club and Battelle Neighbors plan to conduct an open charrette (work session) and gather feedback from all interested neighbors. The date has not yet been set. LCC hopes to work together with the owner and with neighbors to ensure any development plan enhances the livability of Laurelhurst and takes into account the unique open, natural space that exists.
LCC has worked with property owners of the 18-acre site – Battelle and subsequent property owners – for over 30 years. LCC, Battelle Neighbors, and the Battelle Memorial Institute negotiated the initial Settlement Agreement of the property allowing Battelle to expand to meet its needs while preserving open space and other attributes for the neighborhood. With subsequent property owners, the Settlement Agreement has been amended. The site is designated as an Institute for Advanced Study under the Settlement Agreement and Seattle’s Land Use Code. The Settlement Agreement and subsequent amendments run with the land, which means property owners are bound by the Agreement. But, the property owner has the option of developing under the underlying SF 5,000 zoning, which means single-family residential homes with a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet.
Battelle Neighbors and LCC allowed the Talaris Institute for Advanced Study to operate as an exception to the single-family use zoning. The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions cannot operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc.), and covenants apply regarding wetlands and landscape maintenance.
Now that 4000 Property LLC has sold Talaris Institute, the owner is interested in redeveloping the property. A real estate developer from John L. Scott in Issaquah, George Thurtle, represents the property owners and serves as their consultant. He has presented the community with two options for the site’s development. The new Talaris Living website (www.talarisliving.us) states: “After considering a number of site plan concepts, we discovered that Talaris presents a unique opportunity to both preserve the site’s legacy landscape and make the property financially viable.” The developer has been hosting multiple open house opportunities for neighbors to view their plans, ask questions, and provide input.
Their preferred plan aims to preserve much of the open space and existing tree cover and proposes to reuse “all of the existing infrastructure including building foundations, drainage, utilities, and roadways….” The trade-off is that this plan is a 350- to 400-unit multi-story apartment option, which would require a rezone from the current single-family zoning. Changing the zoning to apartments also allows the developer to raise height limits in exchange for providing low-income units. The owner’s second option, which is consistent with the current zoning, simply carves up the land parcel into 90 single-family lots for new homes.
LCC has met with the 4000 Property LLC to set goals for any new development and has reviewed their proposal. In addition, LCC has met with its land-use consultant and attorney and is hearing from concerned neighbors about the plans. LCC intends to work to achieve an outcome that aligns with community goals. LCC, with the expertise of a reputable residential architectural firm, has drafted a third conceptual option that preserves open space with fewer single-family lots for homes more in character of the neighborhood. The feasibility of this concept has not yet been fully studied.
The primary goal for this treasured piece of property is to preserve as much natural open space as possible… regardless of the development plan that moves forward. Some preliminary land-use/development priorities expressed by neighbors include:
The LCC Board and LCC’s Land Use Committee (Jeannie Hale, Colleen McAleer, Stan Sorscher, and Liz Ogden), Barb Ragee from Battelle Neighbors, as well as LCC land use consultant Carol Eychaner and attorney Peter Eglick, have met with representatives of the new owners of Battelle/Talaris (4000 Property LLC) on several occasions.
George Thurtle, John Scott Real Estate consultant, and Brent Carson, attorney for the property owner, attended the November 5 meeting of the Laurelhurst Community Club at LCC’s request to answer questions about a potential plan they presented some months ago. About 40 interested neighbors joined the discussion. While the owner wishes to preserve the unique nature of the property, this option deviates from its single-family residential zoning and institute for advanced study designation. The plan, which would require a rezone, includes commercial and rental housing, although uses are not specified.
Challenges and Opportunities Lie Ahead for Redevelopment of Talaris Site
A bit of site history:
Talaris Property in Play for Development
ARCHIVE NEWSLETTER ARTICLES:
HISTORY – Letters and Statements about the Battelle (now Talaris) Site: