(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
The 166-apartment project proposed for 3210 California SW will be back for a second round of Early Design Guidance, as a result of its first try last night, before a crowd of around 50 people at the Senior Center of West Seattle. That means it will come before the Southwest Design Review Board at least two more times – once a project passes EDG, a more fleshed-out version must be brought back for final recommendations.
While first word of this project came just two months ago, you could say it’s been almost six years in the making, dating back to the 2007 emergence of a plan to upzone California between Hanford and Hinds for larger potential development – this is the first one to be proposed since then, and as noted during the meeting, it’s potentially a precedent-setting building in terms of its length:
(Proposed ‘preferred’ massing for the development; rendering courtesy Nicholson Kovalchick Architects)
Ahead, toplines from the meeting, covered for WSB by Christopher Boffoli:
Steve Fischer, project manager from Nicholson Kovalchick Architects, started the presentation. The site to be developed by Intracorp includes six parcels with current addresses from 3210 to 3240 California SW. It’s hoped, he said, that the project will be “a bridge” between the commercial areas in The Admiral District and The Junction.
As is required of project teams presenting for Early Design Guidance, they showed three potential options – you can see them in the official “packet” for the project. The third was the “preferred option,” in their view, and they pointed out that it is still below the project’s potential height limit; on its east side, abutting the single-family-home neighborhood whose residents are concerned about what it will mean for their quality of life, there would be an average 23’8″ setback, further than they would be required to.
Also on the east side of the project, buffer plantings and terraced landscaping are planned, according to landscape architect Andy Rasmussen from Weisman Design Group. Fischer explained that they are aiming for a calm backyard type of environment. Rasmussen also said the street trees will stay, and that parallel parking on the street will be enhanced because of the elimination of multiple curb cuts that exist now for driveways to the existing properties – 106 feet of curb cuts, to be precise.
As always, after the presentation, board members asked “clarifying questions.” They wanted to know about how steep the parking grade would be from the street – 15 percent, was the answer – as well as whether the project’s commercial space could have been at the north end instead of the south end; the site’s rise on the north side was the challenge, it was explained. (As noted in a previous WSB report on this project, the commercial space will start as “live-work” but could be converted to “full commercial” since they will have the required-for-that 13-foot ceilings – all depends on how the market goes, they said. Project reps stressed that they are hoping to avoid empty storefronts, as happens too often while new development space comes up to speed. Board members also wanted more detail on the patios and stoops that are envisioned at street level
More than a half-dozen members the public spoke – we will add details later, but the toplines included:
-Needs more visual interest and random massing, so it won’t look so much like a big glass box
-Should commit to true commercial spaces rather than live-work, which tends not to “activate” the street (multiple speakers suggested that)
-The spirit of the land-use code did not anticipate 450-foot-long parcels, so the scale of the building should be further broken down
-One of the community members who wrote the letter featured in our Wednesday story suggested the height be reduced from five to four stories and also noted that while the Admiral District’s neighborhood plan has room for 200 more residential units, this would take up most of that
-Not respectful of neighbors’ privacy or sunlight
-Dangerous for pedestrians, with two garage entrances on California
-Even from California SW street level, looking up at 61 feet of building will be too much
-The upzoning conversations never took into effect something this long and this heigh
Board deliberations included agreement with some of the points brought up by the public including the lack of variation in heights and massing, as well as a concern about the loss of “variety” along the street with one big project replacing six parcels. The issue of locating the commercial space on the north side came up again since that’s closer to West Seattle High School and would further facilitate student use. Also, board members thought the east side should have larger communal spaces rather than private patios. Regarding the building’s length, Link in The Triangle came up – but, it was pointed out, the neighborhood character is very different there – though it also was noted that while commercial spaces are activating the south end of Link, its west-side facade is relatively lifeless. The board also would like to see a review of other large projects like this elsewhere in the city, since the proposed building is longer than two blocks, and that might be the first time anything of its kind is proposed anywhere in the city. What, they wondered, if it were broken up into three different buildings?
With those and many other issues, it was clear the project needed to come back for another round of Early Design Guidance -while that is only a recommendation by the board, which is advisory in nature, Department of Planning and Development planner Michael Dorcy (who has worked on more than a few other major projects in West Seattle) confirmed to WSB this morning that DPD concurs. No date set for the second EDG meeting, but we’ll report it as soon as we get it.
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