(Renderings by Johnston Architects)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The project proposed for the former Charlestown Café site at 3824 California SW went before the Southwest Design Review Board for the fourth time tonight. Board members agreed to allow it to advance out of the process, provided several conditions were met – mostly fine-tuning.
The project now includes 27 units in six three-story buildings, punctuated by courtyards, with 26 parking spaces on the east side of the site. (You can see the full “design packet” here.)
As the two-hour meeting began, Megan McKay of Johnston Architects reviewed changes to the project since last time around, including removal of a live-work unit, and revisions in landscaping and street-tree plans (they’re asking for a “departure” to maintain the existing street-tree zone along California, and they’re planning to add trees along Bradford, on the project’s south side).
Landscape architect Karen Kiest said the site will include a “lot of magnolias,” and the center courtyard having a water feature, large “harvest table,” and stone slabs to distinguish it from the streetscape. The development will have bike parking at three locations on the block, she added.
McKay showed the ground floor of the live-works will be focused on retail/commercial, while the ground floor of the all-residential units on the east side will have living rooms; second floor will be living room for live-works, bedrooms for residentials; third floors will be “master suites.” They’ve minimized the size of the residential units’ rooftop decks so they won’t be as “visually intrusive.” Entry doors will be “fir, for the warmth of wood,” and there will be brick trim too, especially on the units wrapping around the piazza/courtyard space.
Businesses along California Avenue will each have their own sign.
In response to a question from the board, Kiest explained the screening plants that will be around the common areas housing trash/recycling bins and other utility-type facilities.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Abdy Farid, long active in land-use and neighborhood issues locally, said that he “really likes the design” after some initial concerns about whether live-work would truly be suited to this area.
Another commenter who says she lives across the alley from the property said she wanted to be certain that privacy concerns had been responded to. The architects said they had tried to keep the windows on the east side of the residential units as small as possible, but a few were a bit larger for “livability” issues. They also pointed out the trees that will ultimately serve as screening. The resident also expressed concern about the penthouses on the buildings being too close to the neighborhood east of the project; architects noted that the stairwells on the southernmost and northernmost penthouses have windows, but the other four do not. (She also asked if there’s a start time for the project, for demolition and construction, but the board explained, as did DPD planner Beth Hartwick, that those dates are not part of this process and, once permits are in hand, the developer doesn’t even have to notify DPD.)
A third speaker wondered about potential changes in the commercial spaces’ configuration; and a fourth wondered about the alley sloping that will result from the project; DPD’s Hartwick offered to work with him to make contact with SDOT to be sure the plans address his concern.
BOARD DELIBERATION: Daniel Skaggs said he had some disappointment with the layout. Matt Zinski said he’s not happy to see cement-board siding.
Todd Bronk said he’s concerned overall with safety/security and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles in part of the courtyard that’s only 10′ wide – he’d like to see it wider. He said he appreciates the palette but also has concerns about the cement-board siding.
T. Frick McNamara‘s concerns included a “missed opportunity” to use a grade change to “tuck the parking underneath” and she’d like to see a different material used for the parking area, more “human scale” since that will be the first thing residents see when they come home. Bronk wonders about the amount of parking on the site – how much will be used for the live-works, how much for the residentials.
As they planned the guidance to give the developer, they again mentioned taking care to ensure the common spaces all work for the project and its residents. But aside from some fine points, board members pronounced themselves “very happy” with how the live-work units had turned out, in particular.
They also called for some differentiation in the materials and colors on the east side of the townhouses, to help make the transition between the project and the neighborhood behind it. The view from the west, into the “piazza,” also could stand some differentiation, said Zinski, since that would be a “key view” into the project, and currently looks toward the “cement board” on a few of the townhouses. Landscape architect Kiest said she had clearly heard “bigger trees” for the east side, too.
Hartwick was asked to run through the conditions she had heard, since she told the board she thought the project could advance with a clear list of conditions:
-Activate the 10’ courtyard space so it’s usable (pavement, lighting)
-Lighting on the 6 main corners of the buildings, and the piazza
-No asphalt in the alley parking
-Less cement board, add other materials such as wood siding on the east side
-Where there’s concrete, vary the finish – “light sandblast” for example, not just “raw concrete”
-Robust landscaping from the start, especially on the alley, not starting with “1-gallon” plants
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The board’s recommendations will be finalized in a report from Hartwick, probably within a few weeks. The project is continuing through the permit phase; we will be checking with the developer, Intracorp, to see what timetable it plans for construction.