Last night’s Southwest Design Review Board meeting about the project proposed for that spot between PCC and the California Place mixed-use building had one foot in the present and one foot in the future – as would be optimal for such meetings, since new buildings will be around for decades. We toplined it last night but here as promised are the details:
Unlike some proposals that come before the DRB, this one didn’t arrive with much controversy in tow. Deb Barker – who is about to yield the board-chair spot, which rotates annually, to David Foster (not in attendance last night) — expressed regret that no one had attended from the single-family-home neighborhood across the alley behind this area, as they are the ones likely to be most affected by the new construction.
Those who did attend included the owner of California Place and one of his tenants, who voiced concern that her unit on the south side of the building would lose some privacy and view because of the new building, as well as a neighborhood resident identifying herself as Denise, who said, “It’s not another cookie-cutter townhouse project, so THAT’S good.”
Here’s what we learned about the building: Three stories, with the main owner a dental practice that’s seeking partners for the building space (Pacific Endodontics, according to the permit application); “basement” parking with entrance off the alley. (The California Place owner’s biggest concern involved parking; he said, “Last year this project would have required 35 stalls [triple what is required now],” and noted the neighborhood will bear the brunt of any gap between what the building provides and what its clients/tenants actually need. Nearby resident Denise did point out that since this building is not likely to require after-hours parking, that might provide some neighborhood relief.)
What came up over and over again was the future of the PCC site immediately to the south. As board member Brandon Nicholson put it, “Something’s going to happen on the PCC site in the future.” In the short term, the second and third stories of this building will have an exposed wall looming over the roof of the north side of PCC, though, so the board is intent on seeing what the architects will do to keep it from being a dead space. There was even a suggestion to create a planting area – it would have to have “deep planting medium,” cautioned board member Christie Coxley, a landscape designer — atop the PCC roof, to climb onto framework that theoretically could be placed against the exposed wall. But aside from the concern over the wall, the discussion of the PCC site’s future focused on the likelihood that any redevelopment there would go to the 4-story height limit, so the 2743 California project should be viewed through that prism.
The architects, Lewis Architecture and Interior Design of Bellevue, acknowledged that the three options they presented to the Design Review Board were only slight variations on the same theme — one, their favorite, had a gabled roof, and that was the main digression — because the site is fairly narrow (“we’re fighting for every inch,” as they put it), and they feel they don’t have much options for dealing with a “tight space.”
Board members expressed disappointment that the architects’ presentation did not include photos of their other work (which led us to muse that it’s a shame there’s not a laptop and overhead projector on hand for these meetings, because they could easily have viewed the architects’ online samples of medical/office buildings by going to this page). Without seeing examples, board member Joe Hurley said, he couldn’t help but worry that “this looks an awful lot like a medical building from the ’70s, with a static, horizontal quality to it.”
As board members discussed their recommendations for the architects, who sat just feet away to listen, they had a lot to say about the “exterior finish materials” for the building. “No vinyl,” was the repeated plea. It also was noted that this building is not close enough to the historic section of the Admiral commercial district for them to recommend brick.
Whatever it turns out to be, Barker said, just don’t make it a “vanilla box stuck into a colorful area (of West Seattle).”
One side note that generated some regret from Coxley is the fact that this development will take down a birch tree (the tree at the left side of the photo above) with a trunk that measures more than a foot across, “heritage” birch as she described it. Board members did stipulate that landscaping is a concern for the site as well; while the building is likely to come as far forward as zoning allows on the California side, they saw lots of potential on the alley side.
Next steps: The architects will have to work on a more detailed design to bring back to the Design Review Board for the “recommendations” meeting. Then the owner/developer will apply for permits (you can track that part of the process here). If you have any feedback on the project and/or the site, the city planner handling it is Lisa Rutzick, and you can e-mail her at email@example.com.