Myrtle Reservoir park update @ City Hall: Grading glitch


As you can see from that photo Scott sent last week – the day grass seed was applied – the Myrtle Reservoir site is not only on a hill, it has hills of its own. And they seem to have provided a new wrinkle in the park plan, according to what the Parks Department’s project manager and architect told the city Design Commission downtown today:

Backstory: This park is being built with Pro Parks Levy money – the levy that’s expiring this fall, with a new one maybe, or maybe not, to follow – as the city water reservoir on the site is being “lidded.”

The lid project belongs to Seattle Public Utilities. The park project belongs to Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. And as Parks project manager Virginia Hassinger mentioned more than once while speaking to design commissioners at City Hall this afternoon, the fact the two projects weren’t coordinated in the early going is leading to some problems now.

One of them is the “grading” of the site – its altitudes, hills, valleys, etc. Hassinger said it was discovered recently that SPU had provided grading information based on an imprecise aerial survey and Parks had to “pull back in the past few weeks to wait for SPU to complete its (ground) survey.”

Architect Jim Nakano told the commission about some recent changes in the plan. For one, it was made crystal clear, again, that a possible skate feature has been totally written out (as first revealed at a public meeting last month). For now, although Hassinger said, “who knows what will happen years down the road?” The northeastern section once labeled for “future skate feature” is now just more greenspace – “we’ve kept it open in case there’s future site selection,” Hassinger explained.

Nakano also noted a change that has been facilitated by the site grades – what was going to be a formal staircase at the northeast corner will now be “intermittent stairsteps” without handrails. “It feels better, takes less energy, is comfortable,” he said. The same approach will be used at another spot inside the site; meantime, they are still working on an accessible path for disabled people to get to the highest elevation on the site without having to use the sidewalk along 35th.

He also said more seating has been added by the play area, with a seating wall and picnic tables. And it looks like the “Landscape” play structure by EVOS is what they’re going to go with for the playground area (something like this).

A few of the site features that are part of the SPU work clearly trouble the project team, and drew concerns from Design Commission members as well — a “large drainage facility” with what Hassinger describes as a “very large catch basin” and “an industrial spillway feature we were surprised to see” during recenet visits to the site — and the 12-foot black-chain-link fence that will be blocking off access to sensitive reservoir-related structures. There’s really no alternative for the fence, the project team explained – it’s a matter of Homeland Security regulations, and the feds mandate what has to be there.

Hassinger said they were working to compromise with SPU wherever that was possible – for example, she says, the access road in the site isn’t 18 feet wide any more, something closer to 12 feet.

One new development that raised commissioners’ eyebrows – pathways inside the park will be concrete, not asphalt. Concrete is more expensive, but Hassinger said that because it’s lower maintenance, Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher told them “go ahead and spend the money” and use concrete. One commissioner expressed dismay there wouldn’t be a “wider variety of materials” for the pathways.

They also spent a few minutes going back over what’s not included in the project – the “viewpoint” on the south side of the site is not, because it can’t be connected to the park, because of reservoir security and structures. Also, there’s no “arts funding” for the project; the commission wondered if perhaps the water towers would be painted – Hassinger said she understood SPU might be getting around to that within a few years.

After the presentation and questions from commissioners (this was not a public hearing), they listed these official comments for the record:

–They recognize the grading and spillway elements will change

–They’re concerned about possible redundancy with the Our Lady of Guadalupe school play area across the street; they want to be sure the two play areas are “complementary”

–They’re concerned about the new plan for the pathways to be concrete, which means “a lack of tactile material diversity”

–They want to see the project leaders “rediscover the concept” for the park – what its unifying theme should/will be

–They think the trees are too far apart — “trees are cheap,” said one commissioner; “if you’re going to do them, DO them!”

–And they note, in the words of commissioner Brendan Connolly (a West Seattle resident), who kept and announced the notes for this agenda item (the responsibility rotates between commissioners for the items on their all-day twice-monthly agendas), “We have grave concerns about the 12-foot chain-link fence that is allegedly keeping our homeland safe

After listing the concerns mentioned above, all but two commissioners voted to approve the “final schematic design” for the park. They asked that the project leaders bring it back to the commission for review when the design is farther along.

13 Replies to "Myrtle Reservoir park update @ City Hall: Grading glitch"

  • Scott June 19, 2008 (7:26 pm)

    “–They think the trees are too far apart — “trees are cheap,” said one commissioner; “if you’re going to do them, DO them!”

    Sounds like maximizing the views from the highest point in Seattle shall be minimized?

  • WSB June 19, 2008 (8:07 pm)

    Sorry, haste made for unclarity.
    The trees are mostly around the perimeter, to “soften” the fence around the site. Although I will have to see if I can get this updated schematic in electronic format from the Parks Dept. tomorrow – I have hard copies from this afternoon’s meeting but not sure if they’ll come out in a photo (and our scanner’s not behaving).

  • Scott June 19, 2008 (8:22 pm)

    It would be nice to have more space at the view point, it is after all a view point! Its always difficult to get a good view of the city, especially during the 4th of July! Its -v-e-r-y- crowded (read: popular!) view point of the city.

    Sometimes less is more… however less trees could make this park more!

  • RickB June 19, 2008 (8:32 pm)

    On the plus side for the concrete pathways: they should be less maintenance and generally stay more “tidy” than asphalt (no buckling from roots etc.) and gravel/bark/wood chips (no weeds or mud holes). It seems like, with their budget constraints, that the Parks department has trouble keeping everything in the city spic and span… Why not let the concrete go ahead and focus attention on other aspects of the project?


  • Denny June 19, 2008 (10:03 pm)

    Concrete makes for better skating…

  • cleat June 20, 2008 (7:06 am)

    for accessability I prefer concrete paths too

  • Ken June 20, 2008 (8:38 am)

    redundancy with the Our Lady of Guadalupe

    What kind of BS is that?

    I never have and never will set foot on property owned or controlled by the Catholic church (or any church for that matter).

    What kind of moron worries about redundancy with a private entity? Can I get the name of the “commissioner” who used that as a valid criteria? Did he ask the priest if they wanted a skate park?

    I also resent the twice daily closing of a city owned taxpayer funded street for the convenience of this private religious entity.

    Their facilities are not open to the public and the design review board will have no chance to comment on their building plans.

    I have decided it is time to stop complaining about the institutional idiocy of the design review board and start working to create some change in its makeup. It appears to be little more than a developer/BIAW rubber stamp and a greenwashing enabler. If you wonder why so many backyard condos and identical townhomes are being approved in West Seattle, take a look at these backgrounds.

  • WSB June 20, 2008 (8:46 am)

    Ken – the city website has an extensive list of board and commission openings and in my experience covering these things some positions go open for a long time because nobody wants to step up to do this work. You can argue they don’t do enough outreach, but that’s another conversation. Did want to clarify two things: 1. This wasn’t the Design Review Board, but rather the citywide Design Commission, which is why I had to go downtown to cover their meeting. My first reference to Design Commission in the report links to the list of commission members and information about them. 2. The OLG reference did include a question that no one present could answer (there is one WS resident on the commission but he apparently didn’t know … and to be honest, I don’t know either) which is whether the public is allowed to use the play area on the OLG site at any time. They were working from an aerial photo and just looking at “hmm, here’s a park, but there’s a playground over here too.”

  • Aaron June 20, 2008 (12:02 pm)

    Am I the only person who thinks it’s odd that the barbed wire is placed to keep people in and not out?

  • Mike Dady June 20, 2008 (12:16 pm)


    Please don’t start pummeling the people on the Design Review Board as they not responsible for the Multi-Family code that is a big driver of a lot of the things you resent about the recent spate of townhome development. Plenty of which is not subject to the Design Review Board process in anyway, shape or form. I believe it is the Multi-Family code itself and the ‘market’ that values certain things at the expense of others. Gawd knows I am not expert at this stuff, but I do know people who have volunteered to serve or have served on the Design Review Board and they are not rape-and-pillage types. Take one of the current DRB people out to coffee or lunch and then determine where it is best to direct your energy.

  • WSB June 20, 2008 (12:56 pm)

    Mike makes an excellent point – in fact, recently appointed Southwest Design Review Board member Brandon Nicholson was one of the panelists at Sally Clark’s recent “what do we do about townhouse design?” forum, which we covered with an in-depth writeup:

    and he presented alternate designs (some of which are shown in our article), as well as advocating for more public participation in the review of MORE projects than currently get reviewed.

  • Ken June 20, 2008 (7:53 pm)

    Let’s assume for a moment that the current board is a different bunch from the crew that continually ridiculed myself and other neighborhood activist who tried to have input on the problems at Highpoint during it’s design review phase. They deleted me from the mailing list 5 times. I had to check the web site every day to find out where they had moved the meetings at the last minute. Since the board is made up of architects, business owners, and developers, and appointed by Greg “Density” Nickles, I have to assume it is the same mix of cronies and BIAW contributing hacks.

    I am serious about wanting to know which one thought the church had the right to any input into a design of a city project.

    At highpoint, the design review board continually bent over backwards to allow setbacks, street design stupidity, and fudging of the height limit to remove all views, parking and privacy from myself and every neighbor of the project.

    This is not people who were against the rebuild. This was people looking out for those who had no power in the first place because as taxpayers and homeowners we though we had a little more than those who were spread across the city in Section 8 housing.

    The same neighbors fought to keep SHA and the city from cutting 30% of the subsidised rentals for the working poor. As it is , the SHA lied and cut them anyway after construction had started.

    I see the goals of the DRV quite differently than some of you it seems. Someday you will be in the position of watching that sausage being made rather than admiring the bun it is dressed up in.

    Good luck on that day. And pray the developers cronies are phased out before it makes decisions in your neighborhood.

  • Mike Dady June 21, 2008 (9:47 am)

    I appreciate where you are coming from Ken, and as someone who lives one block off of Delridge Way I have firsthand experience of watching rapid infill redevelopment and change occur in a neighborhood. Some of of this redevelopment is well done, some not so well done. Unfortunately, IMHO, not a single one of these North Delridge infill projects was put through the Design Review Board process due to the fact that their size was of such that it is not required per code. Had these projects been required to have gone through the DRB process it is very likely the developers would have been required to make some changes to ‘humanize’ their projects and reduce some of the glaring design flaws such as 6 ft. tall fences, redundancy in exterior design, horrible curb-cuts, poor site drainage and zippo improvements to gravel, pothole filled alleys. With all that being said I believe the townhome housing model has allowed a lot of people who can not afford a single family home the ability to purchase something rather than pay high rent forever. All-in-all I think the trade-off has been worth it.

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