Putting the ‘happy’ in Happy Valley

Do It

What: YIMBY: Yes in My Backyard!

When: 9 am Sat., Apr. 29

Where: Firehouse Performing Arts Center, 1314 Harris Ave.

Cost: Free

Info: http://www.sustainableconnections.org

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The issues of housing affordability, of infill, of neighborhood character are frequently in collision. Acknowledged successes to bring these public goals into harmony are few, and can be slow and difficult to achieve. And—without meaning to be glib about a thorny problem—one reason may be that efforts to approach these convergent public goals are seldom welcomed. They’re resisted. We term it NIMBY, Not in My Backyard. And even that term draws growls of annoyance as we reduce complex concerns to terms of derision.

But what if we embraced the problem? What if, going in, we addressed the issues with better design and a greater sense of neighborliness, happy instead of annoyed?

The Happy Valley Neighborhood Association decided to work on solutions to its housing problem and volunteered to be a pilot project for detached accessory dwelling models and to test out assumptions of the city’s Infill Housing Toolkit.

“YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) is an idea that our Happy Valley Neighborhood Association (HVNA) Board has been working on, with the goal to promote smaller, more affordable housing infill within our neighborhood,” Wendy Scherrer relates. A Huxley graduate who helped grow the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and became its executive director, Scherrer serves on the board of HVNA.

“HVNA was one of 30 local organizations that received a grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation. The grant was targeted for projects to increase connections, build trust among area residents, and develop a sense of community and promote neighborliness,” she said.

It’s not surprising Happy Valley would take the lead on the issue. The neighborhood immediately south of campus already boasts the city’s highest density of rental dwellings and multifamily housing forms.

Those rare successes? You’ll find a lot of them in Happy Valley—Bellingham Cohousing, Millworks CoHousing, Matthei Place, McKenzie Green Commons, Parkway Gardens, and similar intentional communities of small lots and tight design.

The neighborhood association decided to take their $5,000 grant to sponsor a series of events and information to demonstrate examples of building collaborations for increasing affordable housing stock, and the diverse development, walkability and positive aspects of living in Happy Valley.

A Saturday workshop will presentations, roundtable discussions and a trip through the neighborhoods where the group will examine alternative types of infill (such as single-family houses, cottages, ADUs and detached ADUs, tiny homes, cohousing, housing with smaller footprints, etc.).

A highlight of the day will be presentations from Bill Kreager, the architect behind “Honey I Shrunk the Lots!,” the initiative that touched off the conversation about infill and unique housing forms in Whatcom and Skagit counties in the past decade.

Focusing on the integration of sustainable site planning and building design, Kraeger’s work runs the spectrum from small, contextual infill development to large master-planned and resort communities. His passion for affordable and workforce housing is reflected in the successful completion of communities for housing authorities, nonprofit and for-profit developers across the nation.

“We are all in this together. Let’s work together to find solutions that do work for each neighborhood and create a model with great alternatives for housing a diverse set of demographics and people,” residential designer Shannon Maris recently wrote in Whatcom Watch. “Bellingham is a great place to live—let’s keep it that way (or make it even better!) and find ways to share that with others within our present boundaries. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

YIMBY is a project of the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association in collaboration with Sustainable Connections, City of Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department, NAM Films, LightSource Residential Design, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Firehouse Performing Arts Center, Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, Whatcom County Association of Realtors, and the Kulshan Land Trust.

Photo courtesy of Max Illman – Landscape Architect I.T.

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