Olympia holds public hearing for amendment that would allow multifamily housing redevelopment of Olympia Hotel

Hotel set to close December 21, per an employee


Olympia Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir reviewed public testimony and documents related to the conversion of the 192-room Olympia Hotel at Capitol Lake in the Evergreen Park Planned Unit Development (PUD) amendments on December 11.

Applicant Philip Stewart applied last May, which requested modification of the Evergreen Park PUD to permit residential and multifamily uses within its commercial retail zone.

All current uses remain unrestricted – the amendment will only provide more flexibility for allowed uses, and any redevelopment or new development will be reviewed under individual permits.

The notice of application with anticipated State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) determination was issued on June 28, the hearing notice and SEPA Determination of Non-significance were issued on November 17, and the appeal deadline was last Friday, wherein no appeals were filed.

Possible safety issues

Olympia Associate Planner Jackson Ewing discussed some of the processes that the PUD had undergone, including the public comments they received.

“A large number of public comments were submitted about the proposed amendment. There were a number of comments related to concerns about the potential loss [of] the [Olympia] Hotel located within the PUD and resulting in loss of jobs, and fear that more residential uses in the PUD could result in increases of crime [and] reduced security for existing offices and commercial uses in the area,” Ewing explained.

Ewing shared that the staff focused on the public comments related to safety and crime, which prompted them to look at other zoning districts within the city that allow commercial and retail development to gauge these issues.

“All zones that would generally allow commercial and retail outside of industrial zoning would also allow for multifamily development, and so it was found that generally any issues with crime and security would be similar to those areas throughout the city,” Ewing said.

The staff response stated that “generally, the concerns expressed about crime, security, and houselessness are faced throughout the city.”

Public comment

The applicant who requested the amendment, Philip Stewart, explained that he applied on behalf of Olympia Hotel’s owner.

“I initiated this application on behalf of the owner of the Olympia Hotel at Capitol Lake, who is interested in the possibility of converting that property into multifamily housing. We believe that adding this permitted use would be consistent with other commercial zones in the city of Olympia, which Mr. Ewing had stated will allow multifamily housing as a permitted use,” said Stewart.

Susan Bitow, a community member, raised the issue of changing a “visitor-serving facility” to a “housing facility,” which she says would contribute to a more significant number of vehicle trips and utilize more neighborhood facilities.

“Although they may be in the same land use category, I believe there is a big difference between the hotel and its amenities and visitor-serving properties including parking visits in and out in the neighborhood, traffic that's generated on a short-term basis,” Bitow said. “As compared to rental housing, that is going to contribute likely a larger number of trips total by vehicles. There is going to be more constant use of the facilities of the neighborhood.”

Hotel set to close on December 21, an employee said 

Camon Talen, an Olympia Hotel worker, said he and his coworkers are “not happy” with the proposed amendment.

“I will say that I, along with most of my coworkers, are not happy and we are against the rezoning change because we are going to lose all our jobs,” said Talen. “We were notified on November 3rd that the property had been sold, and a week later, we were informed that the property will close.”

Talen said that initially, the closing would be on December 14, but after some issues with a group and a lawyer, the official closing date was set for December 21.

Scheibmeir addressed Talen on his comment and email, suggesting that this matter had already been decided, as evidenced by the fact that the hotel was closing down, and “surely they wouldn't do that unless they knew how this would end up.” He clarified that the hotel’s closing would not be a factor in his decision regarding the amendment.

“I just want to make clear there has been no prejudging of this issue. My decision-making will be independent of that fact. I do recognize it has a dramatic impact on you, but it has no impact – I will not be more inclined to grant it simply because the hotel has ended its services,” Scheibmeir explained.

Staff recommended that the hearing examiner recommend the PUD amendment to the city council.

After review and supplementation, city staff will submit the application to the examiner by December 26, after which Scheibmeir is expected to review the materials and make a recommendation for approval by city council.

Editor's Note:  This story was updated on December 13, 2023. 


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