We couldn’t go to last night’s Design Review Board meeting but WSB reader Sage Wilson did and offers this detailed report (thanks, Sage!), after the jump:
The presentations of the project by the developer and architect were
unbelievably poor. One member of the Design Review Board said it was
the worst project he had seen in his two years on the board.
First, the developer said that the tenant he’s building for had been
“a member of our community” for 23 years, and they want to “remain a
part of our community”. Yes, he was talking about Petco! Who knew that
a nationwide discount pet-supply big box retailer had such loyalty to
us! This attempt to fabricate community roots was utterly unsuccessful
with the crowd, as it would be with any sentient human being.
The architect went next. He had the gall — or perhaps the stupidity
— to propose that a few trellises attached to the building for
landscaping would make it friendly to the street. He even showed off a
collage of trellises and such they had put onto other projects the
firm “designed”. All of them looked painfully suburban; one was a
Petco that, yes, looked like every other Petco that’s been built in
strip malls everywhere. Clearly, a quality architectural firm.
They are proposing a 1-story concrete block box, taking up about half
of the site. The other half of the site would be parking. (Zoning
allows a taller structure, but for some reason the property owner is
requiring only a 1-story development — curious to know the story
behind that.) The proposed structure would have no windows or doors on
California, absolutely killing any hopes that this section of the
street could develop a lively street life. Like every Petco in
history, the building would face the parking lot.Ã‚ I didn’t think it
was possible, but the proposed project would present an even more
hostile attitude to pedestrian sensibilities than the current Junction
Sentiment in the room was universally against the project, for two
1. It would destroy a community institution.
2. West Seattle doesn’t want big box development.
The first item was more important than the second for most of the
audience; however, the design review board only has jurisdiction over
the second item. Many were frustrated by the narrow scope of the
issues that could be discussed at this meeting.
The good news is that I think the project can be stopped, or at least
stalled, by attacking the big box nature of the development. The site
is being developed exclusively for Petco, and Petco by their very
nature builds big boxes. Architectural interest is simply not in their
business model, nor is community context. This is actually good news,
because it means that a campaign to stop the developer from building a
big box would have the same effect as a campaign to stop Petco from
moving to the site — and it would be within the design review
guidelines. And stopping Petco from moving in would halt the current
project, because the project exists to serve Petco.
So my humble suggestion is to make sure we all speak up specifically
about the big box design of the structure. Even if that’s not our only
concern, it is important in its own right, and it’s the tool we can
use to get in the way of this hideous development at this very early
stage of the city’s process. The Design Review Board did not seem to
want this project, for various reasons. We need to make sure they have
all the ammunition they need to stand in the way.
We might also want to tell Petco corporate office what we think:
Petco Customer Relations Online:
Finally, I’ve always wondered what the heck it would mean to be the
architect of something like a Petco, that’s essentially the same
everywhere it’s built. Last night’s meeting provided the answer: it
means choosing trellises!