Design Review doubleheader, project #2: Fifth meeting ordered for 3210 California SW

February 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm | In Development, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

In an intense second session of the night, the Southwest Design Review Board expressed as much frustration as neighbors of the proposed 430-foot-long, five-stories-in-a-”40-foot”-zone 3210 California SW, with both groups saying the project team hadn’t addressed concerns about height/bulk/scale – especially making the project look like three different buildings in truly distinct ways, with more space between them. So they told the project team to bring it back for a fifth meeting – at which they want to see options for a shorter building or a building with upper-level setbacks. More to come (Friday – eta 12:30 pm – update: here’s the full-length story).

14 Comments

  1. I attended last night’s meeting after reading “Who’s our advocate?” in the WSB. It was very heartening to see so many dedicated folks turn out in spite of the bitter cold.

    This proposed project is far out of scale with anything here, and the design looks cheap and ordinary, adding no character to the Admiral neighborhood. The developer tweaked the project slightly but they are essentially the same massive, high density mixed use structures as originally proposed. It looks like the crummy, fast construction in Ballard, with no regard to appearance or impacts to the neighborhoods over time.

    In response to a question about traffic impacts, we were told that they had already been addressed during SEPA review and were not part of this meeting. It’s a critically important aspect of this project and needs to be part of this conversation. This project will very significantly increase traffic on California, which is essentially a two-lane road since parking takes up the outside lanes. I hope that the next meeting provides the opportunity to discuss this.

    One of the commenters during the meeting said that this project would never have been proposed in Wallingford, Madison Park, or Mercer Island. The question behind his statement was why West Seattle would allow itself to be the dumping ground for an oversized, poorly designed project such as this one. Why indeed.

    Comment by wssz — 2:13 am February 7, 2014 #

  2. We all know Seattle is ramming through these projects with little to no regard for neighborhood impact. Materials are cheap, height limits are too high and designs are just bad. The rule seems to be to get as many people as possible into the neighborhoods, impact be damned. Drive down Avalon toward the West Seattle Bridge – it’s like a canyon.
    And whatever happened to brick, building setbacks and off street courtyards? Brick is used extensively (exclusively)? for projects on the top of Queen Anne. The buildings there look thoughtful and lasting, not the ugly future teardowns we are having to put up with in Ballard or WS.

    Comment by enough — 9:18 am February 7, 2014 #

  3. This project is not only completely out of scale with the neighborhood and adjacent single family zone, it is lazy, thoughtless architecture of the lowest order. I am concerned with the bulk, scale and mass, but horrified by the design. A good building, designed by an architect with some talent, could mitigate the bulk and scale issues and make a nice addition to the neighborhood. A good developer would have listened to the DRB recommendations by this point and made some substantial changes instead of fussing with minor details. The applicant is simply trying to gain DRB approval by submitting their same tired design again and again.

    I encourage anyone concerned about this type of cheap, throw-away architecture to come to the next Design Review Board meeting and express your opinion. This type of project will continue to be built until there’s enough resistance.

    Comment by Jeff — 9:28 am February 7, 2014 #

  4. Any so called “good developer” would never risk going bankrupt dealing with > 5 design review meetings from obstructionists and those with enough free time and will to try to stop progress via bureaucracy.

    The only willing people left for badly needed infill and development are LLCs and out of state investors with lawyers and the time and patience to go through the endless meetings that would bleed out a good developer who wanted something that was “in scale” whatever that means.

    Comment by vincent — 9:53 am February 7, 2014 #

  5. After many frustrating meetings to discuss this development, I was heartened by strong pushback by the DRB members who verbalized their frustration with the developer for their “lack of effort to address the intent of the recommendations” that have been clearly given since the very first meeting. There is only one way to solve the issue and finally last night, they recommended reducing the height of the building. I sincerely hope the DRB continues to push back until the developer ACTUALLY addresses the clearly-stated feedback.

    I also took some pleasure in seeing the frustration of the architect and steam coming out of his ears at the end of the meeting. If I were him, I’d be looking for a new job. This design is a complete failure. Can’t believe he and his team had the audacity to claim this latest design was a worthwhile attempt. What a waste of everyone’s time.

    I also don’t think the developers, architect or DPD have any idea who they are up against. The neighbors are committed to fighting the height, bulk, scale and design of this building for as long as it takes. Bring on a 6th or 7th or 8th design review. We are prepared.

    Comment by tmo — 11:00 am February 7, 2014 #

  6. Vincent, the neighbors who have been active in the opposition and the meetings have jobs, families, and full lives just like everyone else. None of us enjoy spending our “free time” dealing with this project. It’s fine if you support the development going forward as proposed, but calling us “obstructionists” is unfair and frankly ignorant.

    Comment by Ex-42nd — 11:32 am February 7, 2014 #

  7. If a project is in a zoned area and you continue to oppose it to stop height, bulk or the entire project based on your own opinion of aesthetics, then yes your an obstructionist.

    The comments on these threads are the same as the meetings, people doing whatever they can to try to stop density, for the same tired me first reasons, traffic, views, parking and appearance. Despite it being done in the tiny fraction of areas in the city, and neighborhoods that are properly zoned for it.

    You don’t have a right to free parking, or your commute to never change.

    The city desperately needs affordable housing, these meetings, and demands to make smaller, more expensive buildings aren’t helping.

    Comment by vincent — 12:26 pm February 7, 2014 #

  8. this meeting last night was so refreshing and heartening; thanks to Deb Barker for stepping up with a fantastic speech encouraging the board to be bold in their requests/demands of this development; I was so inspired by and proud of our DRB who articulated in great detail the critical issues that are the real reasons this project needs to come back for a 5th design review; thank you
    ~
    a 5th DRB is not too much for this enormous project; this is a massive, too tall, insanely long project that will hugely impact our neighborhood for decades (unless it’s so damn crappy that another developer will tear it down in 10 yrs and rebuild something else)
    ~
    it’s hard to tell during a meeting who are the neighbors and who are part of the team; but after the meeting was over, I saw a huddle of 10+ people in back of room; that was the team of architects, attorneys, developers, etc, strategizing; all of these folks, with high salaries; the project will produce millions in profit; on the other hand, the room was filled with neighbors who volunteered their unpaid time to be at the meeting and advocate for the betterment of our community

    Comment by Diane — 12:49 pm February 7, 2014 #

  9. Vincent, I’m not opposed to infill, density or any of the myriad benefits of good urban planning and development. I’m personally opposed to cheap, weak architecture and bad, inconsiderate buildings. Look down California Ave and you’ll see any number of thoughtless, cheap buildings that we’re all stuck with for the next 50 years, all of which I’m sure were highly profitable for their developers. I take offense that my neighborhood is being used as a profit engine for people who don’t live there, and don’t have to live with their own awful buildings.

    Unless they’re forced to do otherwise, developers tend to have their bottom line in mind. Without ‘obstructionists’ you’re going to have a city full of throw-away buildings.

    Would you like to surmise what the average rent is going to look like in this building? I can promise you it won’t be affordable.

    Comment by Jeff — 12:57 pm February 7, 2014 #

  10. I don’t think anyone is trying to stop development because we know it’s going to happen regardless, they just want it to be thoughtful and frankly just look nice. Should we just say have at it to the architects and let them choose what to build for a neighborhood they have no part in? We’d have a million ugly boxes built out of the cheapest materials possible.
    And yes Vincent there do need to be cheaper housing options for people, but I also think it’s unfair that we as homeowners basically get written off. It’s not cheap to buy a house in West Seattle and the city and state is happy to have our taxes, etc… , but what we have no say either because we happen to own our home? I feel like we are somehow demonized because we own a home.
    I was recently in Wallingford and I noticed that the new apartment buildings have angles, curves, use brick and are painted in nice colors. Why is it indeed that every building in WS has to be a box with cheap orange and metal siding? My hat is off to all these people who are taking the time to work through this. This a legacy to WS as far as I’m concerned.

    Comment by natinstl — 1:35 pm February 7, 2014 #

  11. Vincent, it could be that the ‘affordable housing’ schtick is a lie? Many of these developments have been twice to three times the price of existing structures per sq ft, which is hardly affordable.

    They used the same ‘affordable housing’ schtick about a development near me. Do you want to know how much the house is going for? 1.2 mil. That is most decidedly not affordable housing and is more than paid for the lot that was split.

    Comment by Civik — 1:51 pm February 7, 2014 #

  12. Regardless of how many meetings you attend, you can’t force someone to build costly features you find attractive ( brick, artdeco, modern, whatever ) into their private property. The entitlement displayed here is astounding. * I want easy parking access, and no traffic * * I want to keep a view without big buildings * * I want it to not look cheap *

    I am sure these buildings are designed with heavy margins to offset the cost of these endless proceedings. Someone even a LLC has to pay construction and loan costs while the months drag out for these meetings. Every redesign costs money, and tempts a lawsuit against the city that will raise all our taxes. Its great people own houses, but paying taxes doesn’t give you the right to use your victim complex (demonized!) to block zoned development by pretending your personal idea of what west seattle is constitutes an adhoc HOA.

    Affordable housing is related to supply and demand. The more people block these developments the less gets built.

    This is why smaller builders build junk townhouses all over residential neighborhoods, because the zoning allows them to skip all these meetings, where they get seattle processed to death about awful boxes, weak architecture, inconsiderate buildings and them being evil for making a living as a builder.

    This exact process, and the nimbys who drag them on forever ( 5 meetings so far! ), is why the only development we get is investment big box, or townhouse.

    Comment by vincent — 3:04 pm February 7, 2014 #

  13. Vincent, I’m curious whether you have gone to any meetings. The point is that although the project is technically within the (revised in 2012) zoning, it is nowhere near compliant with the Admiral Neighborhood Guidelines, which may not be “zoning” but are still binding on the developers. If we were really just a bunch of self-interested whiners with nothing better to do than cause trouble for developers, I don’t think the project would be headed for Design Review Meeting number five.

    Comment by Ex-42nd — 3:59 pm February 7, 2014 #

  14. Vincent, one way the developers could avoid the costs “while the months drag out for these meetings” is to put in a reasonable design in the first place or respond to the feedback from the first review meeting. Instead of investing large amounts of money in trying to squeeze every inch out of the zoning, they could propose something that will enhance the neighborhood and people will enjoy living in. Then they can get on with construction and start getting a return on their investment. That is a win-win situation for everyone.

    At the design meeting yesterday, one of the panel mentioned he would like to ask the developer to put forward a design with one less floor, but he felt bad because so much money had already been spent. That is the risk the developer chose to take by proposing a building that, although allowed by the code, was clearly out of keeping in height bulk and scale for it’s circumstances (edge of zone, no alley etc) and anyone could see would provoke a long drawn out process and not necessarily be approved. The developer made his choice and now has to deal with the consequences.

    Comment by emfavell — 4:59 pm February 7, 2014 #

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