West Seattle, Washington
Just a few things to share from our latest review of reports at the Southwest Precinct, starting with an apparent flasher at Westcrest Park: This happened at 4:30 pm Wednesday, but wasn’t reported till a day later. Two girls, 12 and 13, told police they saw a man running up and down a hill (between the off-leash area and the rest of the park) with his private parts not-so-private. They left the area, then saw him again in another part of the park, “stretching and exercising,” and still exposed. No detailed description of the suspect was available. Next: The hit-and-run suspect who wasn’t hard to find:Read More
The first city official we pinged about this (see earlier report) was Council President Richard Conlin — and he replied tonight:
Thanks for the message. I am very familiar with this problem — we caught a developer on Greenwood doing this a couple of years ago, not for the design review purpose, but to evade sidewalk construction requirements. When we reported it to DPD, they were able to enforce the requirement by telling the developer that both parts of the project had to be permitted together. I wasn’t aware that it was as widespread as your story indicates, I thought the one we found was an isolated instance.
Since DPD did take corrective action on the one we found, that suggests that it is not the law that needs to be changed, but rather that something in DPD’s procedures. I’m wondering if there were complaints made on any of these projects and if DPD responded in any way. It may be that a Councilmember intervening might be necessary, which would be unfortunate, as that should not be required, but it is a path that can be taken.
Council President Conlin, you may recall, had some interesting comments about development — “McMansions” in particular — during his appearance last week before the Alki Community Council (WSB coverage here). One other note — we sent the “micropermitting” link from earlier today to our favorite citywide news blog, Slog, thinking they might be interested since Slog and parent publication The Stranger pay closer attention to development issues than many other citywide news sources. They posted a followup late today; if you haven’t seen it yet, that link is here.
There’s a new way to help out the son and husband of Red Cup Espresso owner Angelia Paulsen, killed in a crash on I-5 earlier this month, and the organizer says West Seattle rock superstar Eddie Vedder‘s band is involved. Here’s the announcement e-mailed to WSB by Jonathan French:
I am hoping you can spread the word about a raffle we have set up to benefit the OÂ¹Dea family. (Sean & Julian O’Dea) The band Pearl Jam has asked me to donate 2 very rare, autographed limited edition prints signed by the entire band on their behalf. There will be 2 drawings with one win per person. First person who wins chooses the first print. Buy as many tickets as you wish. Tickets are $10.00 each. They can be purchased at Red Cup Espresso (4453 California Ave. SW) (206) 923-0431. Or people can e-mail me (Jonathan French email@example.com) and I can make other arrangements to get tickets out. Drawing is at 12 pm February 23, 2008. Need not be present to win. Write your name and contact info on the back of one of the tickets and they’ll put it in the bucket. Framed prints can be viewed inside Red Cup Espresso.
As we mentioned earlier this week, Red Cup is currently open 6-2 weekdays, 7-4 weekends.
At an Alki meeting this afternoon, the Parks Department presented a new timeline for Statue of Liberty plaza completion: end of October. During the fundraising campaign successfully completed earlier this month (WSB coverage here), Statue of Liberty Plaza Project co-chairs Libby and Paul Carr had said they hoped the plaza could be built in time for a July 4th dedication this year, but that appears to be out of the question, as a “refinement” and review process is expected to take place over the next few months, and the timeline released today doesn’t even call for the project to be put out for bid until early August, with construction projected to start in mid-September. More tomorrow.
Whenever we have one of our “teardown-to-townhome” threads going – like this one – somebody wonders why so many of the new townhouses seem to have no style. Today, as a backhoe scoops debris from the latest t-to-t, we have one answer.
Those photos are before (earlier this month) and after (this morning) in the 3400 block of California. Our most recent mention of that project brought the following e-mail from David Foster, who is not just your average critic — he is an award-winning architect who serves on the Southwest Design Review Board, which you hear about a lot here on WSB, because its public meetings on projects that require design review are often the only times the public gets to hear about/comment on such projects before the backhoe shows up. This particular project, no such review. Some other ones — such as the controversial townhomes across from the church @ California/Othello — no such review. Foster says he knows why:
That project [3400 block of California] is for 16 new townhouses, which is well above the threshold for SEPA Review and Design Review, but it was issued a construction permit without going through either review.
How? The applicants employed an illegal trick called micropermitting (aka segmented permitting). The threshold for SEPA (and Design Review) in this zone (L3-RC) is 9 units or more. The developer maneuvered underneath the threshold by pulling plans for 4 fourplexes off the shelf, and applying for multiple permits. The result – unless this project is challenged – will be another crappy, cookie cutter project that did not receive proper reviews.
SEPA has specific language prohibiting this. But when I spoke to the manager of the Design Review program at DPD, he admitted that all too often the bureaucracy lets these projects slip under the radar – “it’s too hard to keep track of”, and once permits get issued, there is no real remedy short of a lawsuit. He’s tried to get the Land Use section’s support, but to no avail.
This situation got me curious about other projects that might be employing the same illegal strategy, so I took a little field trip through West Seattle. In an hour’s time I found 5 projects that were built in the last year, and 3 more that are under construction (or in the case above, about to start). I put together a chart (attached) showing the projects’ locations and permitting data. (One currently under construction is another 12-unit project in the 5900 block of California Ave.) Looking at these projects as they are now built, any idiot can see that each one was constructed by a single builder as a single project using the same recycled plan. And each could have benefited greatly from Design Review.
SEPA Review and Design Review are processes that were instituted to protect the public from environmentally- and aesthetically harmful projects. Judging by your readers’ response to [this post], people are pissed. Isn’t it time pressure was brought on the City to do its job and enforce the law?
David Foster AIA
Principal, David Foster Architects
Member, West Seattle Design Review Board
SEPA stands for State Environmental Policy Act. A city page about it is here. The attachment that Foster refers to is an Excel spreadsheet that we have uploaded so you can download it (click here). We will be seeking some city comment on this; we’ll let you know what we hear back.
Beach Drive Blog has the pix. We’re still doublechecking on which project this is for; there is one in the area that is proposed for single-family homes but the city website doesn’t show its demolition permit as having been granted yet. Elsewhere in West Seattle, the teardown-to-townhome site in the 3400 block of California is in demolition-cleanup mode today; more on that, with an unusual angle, shortly.
@ 2210, coyote sighting on 35th Ave SW and Roxbury. Looked to be about 55-60 lbs (just slightly bigger than my husky-mix) and light brown. Ran to the alley in the direction of Fautleroy Park through our neighbor’s yard. Oddly enough was just talking about never seeing a coyote in W. Seattle just minutes before at West 5!
If this keeps up, the coyote sightings will get their own map. The other half of the team suggests tthe icons should be anvils.