Design Review details: 3811 California SW and 4532 42nd SW


Two nights after we told you about the sudden change in plans for 3811 California SW – once targeted for teardown, and once rejected for landmark status – the Southwest Design Review Board got its first official look at the new design shown above, which retains and raises the existing building’s front “wings” — this one and its south-side twin:


For our summary of board and public comments – plus what was said about the other project on the SWDRB’s agenda last night, 4532 42nd SW on the east edge of The Junction – read on:

Regarding 3811 California (official city project page here), board members — minus West Seattle architect Brandon Nicholson, who had to stay out of this one because his firm designed it — pronounced it 99% pleasing. But as had been mentioned when Nicholson Kovalchick Architects rep Michael Godfried previewed it for the Admiral Neighborhood Association on Tuesday night (WSB coverage here), there’s a long list of “departures” — deviations from city code — that would have to be approved for this to go through (see page 23 of the downloadable presentation), and board members said they’re concerned about that. Regarding design features, they said they’d like to see the back of the project — which is fairly dense, to balance the relatively low density of the front side that saves the old “wings” — set back further from the alley; here’s how it looks in the latest rendering:


Single-family homes are on the other side of the alley behind this site (and the multifamily building next to it), and one of those neighbors attended the meeting to voice concern about all those units looking into alley-bordering homes/yards. Others who spoke during the public-comment period expressed their delight with the new design, including nearby resident Catherine Barker, who called the building’s look “an awesome compromise” compared to the previous design; former Design Review Board member Jeff McCord, whose firm will be lifting the Charlestown Court wings and rolling them forward, called it a “great balance.”

One other major design feature drew concern from the board — the tower in the middle of the building that will be on the rear section of the site, the one section where part of the existing fourplex will be demolished — too modern to fit in with the rest of the project, they said:


The second project on the night’s agenda was 4532 42nd SW, the site of another history-laden structure — one of West Seattle’s first hospitals, many decades ago — that’s apparently too far gone (and too altered over the years) to merit saving:


It’s been on the books for mixed-use development for a few years (we first mentioned it 22 months ago), but the project went on hold for a while. Now it’s back, and here’s the rendering from tonight’s presentation (download the full presentation here):


This project is now proposed for 35 residential units and 3,000 square feet of retail, with 54 parking spaces; it’ll be about 65 feet high. The developers aren’t looking for any “departures” from code. One major concern for board members: Two years ago, the board asked that the architects/developers come back to show what the project will look like for pedestrians — that view was not included in this presentation, but board members feel it’s imperative because so much has changed in the area, with the QFC/Office Depot project being developed a short distance to the south, and other new buildings on their way to the area.

Erica Karlovits of the Junction Neighborhood Organization spoke during the public-comment period, saying residents are concerned about the back side of this building and what it will present to townhouse residents across the alley — trash pickups, garage doors opening and closing, and alley challenges complicated by the QFC/Office Depot project. The board agreed that the alley-facing side needs to deal more appropriately with the proximity of neighbors’ residences; member Deb Barker also suggested the architects take a look at the current state of area design before finalizing their project.

DESIGN REVIEW FOOTNOTE: For the first time in quite some time, no West Seattle projects are on the publicly posted Design Review calendar. We watch it daily and as always will let you know the next time something turns up on the schedule.

10 Replies to "Design Review details: 3811 California SW and 4532 42nd SW"

  • GenHillOne June 13, 2008 (6:37 am)

    I was getting curious as to why we haven’t been hearing the name of the developer in all of this…they’re getting kudos, so why no name? It is starting to feel a little weird.

    Is it safe to assume that the contractor listed here is also the developer? Omni? Seriously?

  • Beasley June 13, 2008 (9:00 am)

    I don’t really know how all this stuff works. But, the rent checks (for 3811 Cali.) go to CB Holdings (CB as in Cesmat & Butler I assume), the address is Omni’s.

  • WSB June 13, 2008 (10:31 am)

    The name mentioned at the Admiral Neighborhood Association briefing was “West Seattle Construction,” but as Beasley points out, Omni is who owns it. I haven’t had time to check if there’s some difference somewhere – the architects are the ones who make the presentations and they’re usually the ones we mention in the story unless the developer decides to speak (like Charlie Conner at the Junction project Design Review meeting a couple weeks ago).

  • Diane June 13, 2008 (1:02 pm)

    I also wanted more info about the developer after the presentation Tues eve, wanted to thank them; googled West Seattle Construction and found nothing, except wsblog stories, and Omni???
    and the permit lists Omni; glad someone else asked about this

    West Seattle Construction, where are you? who are you?

  • Diane June 13, 2008 (1:12 pm)

    I really felt for the guy who lives across the alley from Charlestown Court; he said he just spent a lot of money fixing up his back yard and now will lose all privacy with these upper units looking right down into his yard; with all my excitement about the revised design for this project, never thought about how the rear balconies would affect neighbors

  • Diane June 13, 2008 (1:24 pm)

    I stayed for most of the second review; made no comment, nothing good to say about this one, and Erica brought up so many great comments/questions

    this looks like a 60’s office building to me, and when he presented the green metal siding, I couldn’t believe it, just on aesthetics alone; then Erica asked about the noise on metal from wind swept rain; good point

    this went on past 9:30, board discussion got too technical for my understanding, and I really wasn’t getting where this is located, so I left and drove by the site; wow, when Erica said the alley is narrow, she was not kidding; as I drove through I was praying there was a turnaround at the end

    I also saw a big white land use sign on a gorgeous old house few doors north of this project; anyone know about that? sure hope it’s not being torn down

  • WSB June 13, 2008 (1:32 pm)

    Guessing you mean these, 42nd/Oregon (the homes to be demolished are on the east side of the street, stretching southward)

  • Diane June 13, 2008 (2:17 pm)

    thanks for the link; this 42nd/Oregon project is news to me since I only discovered wsblog in the fall;
    very glad to see Jeff McCord with Nickel Bros. House Moving stepped up re moving the houses;
    the one house I noticed last night, not so small, and really beautiful, I would for sure hope could be moved/saved
    it was also great to see Jeff at the review last night; I met him at the NW Ecobuilding Guild last summer where he showed a movie of moving a very old & large home down a south lake union hillside, through city streets, and barged off to an island; I love what they do

  • Neighbor June 13, 2008 (5:58 pm)

    Re: Charlestown Court —
    I think the new design is a pretty cool compromise… it’s interesting and combines goals of preserving the character of older buildings while developing for density. While I genuinely feel for the neighbor across the alley, I think major thoroughfares like Cali are exactly where smart dense development belongs.

  • average joe June 16, 2008 (5:49 pm)

    may i please remind everyone here that this same architecture firm is building a HUGE BOX 3 blocks away, a project with ZERO character, a building which maximizes EVERY lot line, set back, building height restriction, and zoning restriction.
    see ‘california mixed use’ or ‘admiral mixed use’ on the architects’ website. thank you.

    this project keeps a few bricks and that is ‘preservation’? i don’t think so. this project keeps a false residential feel to California Avenue and introduces a zoning violation and ‘departure’ in every direction – up, out, down, sideways, and of course backways.
    the effort has merit, but not for the sake of those single family homes behind them –
    TOO many departures to the zoning code and not enough in return.
    How about, make them pay for privacy screens for all of the neighbors who now have 12 tenants sitting in their respective balconies over their backyards.
    ask yourself (and everyone you know whom lives in a single family zone), would you be happy with (3) stories above your private deck, your intimate patio, or your secluded hottub area?
    Great project, just move the back to the Setback, like it should be!

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