Eastside Mansions Invade Mercer Island

Granted, it’s a slow invasion and I haven’t been here for most of it. But I have noticed how the Seattle area has changed in in the last few years: there are many more mega-mansions among the normal homes with character.

In fact, several of the new houses on Mercer Island seem to be aesthetic refugees from the excesses of Bellevue. Last week we were driving through a North Mercer Island neighborhood- nice homes, yards, taste. Suddenly: a massive house with columns. Can you pick it out?

Eastside Mansions Invade Mercer Island

It’s the one hulking over its neighbors, clocking in at 4,363 square feet, 4 fireplaces, 3-car garage, with no yard left. Here’s a closer look:

Another Eastside mansion

Just around the corner, we were driving down a pretty street Street on Mercer Island

When we saw this guy, also new construction, with two big stone columns around the door. Why do Eastside mansions always have columns around the doors?

And its neighbor

Anyway, to each his own and I’m sure some family will enjoy this house. And I know that there will still be development in this area to meet the growing population. But aesthetics, people, aesthetics! It’s a shame to see neighborly neighborhoods invaded like this.

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15 responses to “Eastside Mansions Invade Mercer Island

  1. Mercer Islander

    I bet the city council could do something!

  2. Do something? Like something to limit the development potential of every homeowner’s land? Something that would reduce everyone’s property values? Something that would limit the tax base of the Island and lessen the city’s budgets for providing services to residents? Let’s hope not.

  3. mercerislandblogger

    Keith, agreed that taste isn’t an issue for regulation. I’m not against people redeveloping their land. Owning property is one of our basic rights.

    I’d hope the market would take care of this a lack of demand for garish properties, similar to the lack of demand for mullets.

  4. Actually, the market is taking care of demand to the best of its ability. That’s why the “spec” builders are building these large homes. If they guess wrong, it’s an extremely expensive mistake.

    The traditional method for dealing with an issue like this is through “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” (CCRs) which are recorded on the title and (usually) enforced by a Home Owners Association. If residents of a neighborhood feel strongly enough about this issue, then it’s certainly possible for them to craft such a set of mutually beneficial conditions and get them recorded on their properties. Another – possibly less palatable – alternative may be to relocate to different development that’s already covered by CCRs, particularly one that’s monitored by an Architectural Review Committee.

  5. Actually, Mercer Island DOES do something about this. Unlike Bellevue, where there were no limits on the size of a house relative to the lot, MI has a 50% rule–the square footage of the house can be no more than 50% of the lot size. There is also an “impervious surface” limit that ranges from 20% to 50% of the lot size, depending on the steepness of the lot.

  6. Mercer Island does have impervious surface restrictions and regulations as stated in the above post. However, if one delves into this issue they’ll find that there are ways around square footage restrictions and many, many exceptions to the rules on impervious surfaces — with offsets and exempted uses, etc. The city also has design review oversight responsibilities. The concern and issue should be the preservation of the “character” of particular neighborhoods.
    For starters, we do not want spot zoning that “inserts” unwanted development (e.g. multifamily and/or attached residential construction) which dramatically changes homes on the streets where we live and associated property values. Secondly, we do not want exemptions granted for placing these 4 to 6 thousand sq. ft monstrosities in neighborhoods that mostly have homes half or one-third that size.
    On this very topic, the City of Kirkland recently passed an ordinance that restricts new megahomes, often referred to as McMansions. They are ahead of the curve on this issue and it is one that Mercer Island should consider before it is too late.
    One only has to drive around the Ballard area and other neighborhoods to the west to see how Seattle has crammed in “connected but separate” home development and cheaply constructed multifamily (aka apartments). Ugly is the word, and it is wrecking many of these once fine areas. We don’t need or want that here in our neighborhoods.

  7. And in Medina it’s 25% lot coverage, which – with height restrictions – means that builders are building boxes with no eaves and shallow pitched roofs. Now _that_ isn’t very attractive IMHO, but there will always be people who push the envelope.

    Also, look at the story in today’s MI Reporter about slowing tax revenues from real estate sales. These tear-down new constructions are going to be the major source of the city’s revenue after the downtown core is done being redeveloped and sold.

  8. mercerislandblogger

    Really interesting, thanks Keith and Island Rez. I had heard about height restrictions but never thought through how more stringent ones would hurt aesthetics by limiting certain architectural features.

  9. Thanks for the photos — I’d been missing the Sopranos!

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  14. Those are not mansions–just regular houses.

  15. Mickey Canin

    I agree, they’re definitely not mansions!!! Take a look at some of the waterfront homes on Mercer. Now they are mansions!

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