A planned hygiene center in Ballard will have showers, washers and dryers to serve up to 100 people a day. The third Urban Rest Stop in Seattle is set to open this year on the bottom floor of the Low Income Housing Institute’s (LIHI) new senior housing in Ballard. An Urban Rest Stop already operates downtown on Ninth Avenue and another in the University District, and other organizations host hygiene centers across the city.
But before the Ballard site can open, it has to overcome a legal challenge filed by two neighbors who live on the same block as the proposed Urban Rest Stop. In December John Davis and Ethan Van Eck filed an appeal with the city of Seattle Office of the Hearing Examiner that challenges the conditional use permit LIHI received to open the hygiene center.
The case will be heard Feb. 10.
The appellants could not be reached or declined to comment about the challenge, but their formal complaint details their concerns: Eck and Davis contend that they will be “significantly affected by the noise, odors, increased criminal activity, inadequate parking facilities and traffic, and general incompatibility of this institutional use in their neighborhood,” according to the complaint.
The site is two blocks north of Ballard’s Market Street and just down the road from the Ballard Public Library, but the block is zoned residential. Davis and Eck argue in their appeal that the city’s approval of the project was wrong and should be reversed.
The appeal states that the project fails to address noise impacts, is incompatible with the residential scale and character of the surrounding area and lacks onsite parking.
LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee said the complaint is typical of NIMBY reactions, referring to the acronym for “Not In My Back Yard.” The complaint lists the possibility of crime and parking impacts, but they’re really worried about homeless people coming to the neighborhood, she said.
“They can’t say, ‘We don’t like homeless people,’ or ‘We don’t like low income people,’ so they talk about parking,” Lee said.
Lee said LIHI studied the parking in the area and said the project would not have a negative impact.
The hygiene center, she said, would serve a large existing population of homeless people in Ballard. The neighborhood already hosts the largest population of car campers in the city, most of whom move around the industrial area south of Market Street where there are few residential buildings.
Program Manager Ronni Gilboa said the space will operate similar to one downtown on Ninth Avenue but with less capacity. The Urban Rest Stop on Ninth provides 175 to 200 showers a day; Ballard’s is projected to provide 75 to 100 each day.
The project in Ballard has support from advocates for homeless people and some business organizations. The Ballard project has received support from the Downtown Seattle Association and Smart Growth Seattle, a developer-backed organization that promotes building density.
“We need to welcome everyone who wants to live in this city regardless of income or status,” said Smart Growth Director Roger Valdez in a letter to the city. “The Ballard Rest Stop helps do that.”