With Design Review next week, see the 4724 California concepts – and a citizen’s response

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One week from today, the 4724 California development proposal goes before the Southwest Design Review Board for the first time.

Today, we have two views of the ex-Petco site’s potential 7-story future. One is in a set of sketches from the development team – to whom we spoke for stories published here on April 20th and April 30th, following up first word of the plan four weeks ago, as well as the latest version of the packet for next week’s meeting (see it here). Above is the project team’s “preferred” early-concept sketch.

We also have what you might call a packet of “alternative” concepts put together by one of the community members who recently previewed the early sketches in their first round of unofficial community meetings. He wonders what you think about HIS design guidelines.

First, more from the development team, which is comprised of prospective owners The Wolff Company (whose completion of the purchase is conditioned on assurances the project will go forward), “on-the-ground” project reps Urban Evolution, and architects Weber Thompson. Their caveat: “This is all very early concept work and in no way intended to represent final designs.” These are concepts they have showed to community members, for the building envisioned at about 100 units (a fifth of them “live-work” on the second floor), and wanted you to see as well – beyond the usual “massing” size/shape renderings that are typically shown at an Early Design Guidance meeting. Here’s what they describe as a “traditional” take on the “preferred” sketch:

And this is a potential layout for the first floor of the building:

Those two are not in the official material for the “Early Design Guidance” meeting next Thursday (May 24) – it’s meant “to give some indication of how we envision the street-level interface to start to take shape and to provide some very early context for what are otherwise yellow blocks from the massing studies in the EDG pack.” Like this one, looking eastward toward the front of the “preferred” massing option:

From that package, the “design narrative”:

The new project will enhance the fine grained retail found along California Ave. SW as well as relate thoughtfully to the emerging higher density buildings in the neighborhood. The entire ground floor facing California will be devoted to retail frontage that will relate well to the existing pedestrian environment and commercial uses. Live/Work units will line a portion of the alley façade at the ground floor and occupy the second floor along California and the alley. Vehicular entry to the garage and building loading/service will also be located on the alley.

In elevation along California the podium will be comprised of ground floor retail and Live/Work units at the second floor. This will be architecturally differentiated from the upper five levels of residential program by expressing a more commercial language at the base of the building. The residential lobby and access to the Live/Work units will be located along a proposed mid-block pedestrian walkway on the project’s north property line. In order to daylight the walkway the majority of the project will be pulled back 10’ from the north property line. The mid-block walkway will provide access from California east to 42nd Ave. SW and continue the linkage started by the Mural project to the east.

The preferred massing option will provide a signature corner element to mark and animate the mid-block crossing. Both North and South elevations will pull off the property lines to minimize blank walls as much as possible and provide corner glazing for the units.

Again, much of that won’t officially show till the second round of Design Review – the first one, next Thursday (6:30 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge) is to talk about the building’s “massing” (size and shape) and other general aspects. Here’s another of the “massing” renderings for the first round on May 24th, from the “packet,” this time looking from the southeast, and note the gray shading further north, representing where the Equity Residential building is scheduled to be built at California/Alaska:

The public is welcome at Design Review – but comments must stick to design aspects; traffic, noise, and other effects of a development are considered “environmental” and do not generally get a public hearing – you will be able to send those to the city planner assigned to the project, Shelly Bolser, who will be at the Design Review meeting.

Now, the “alternative” packet – not specifically offering a vision for the Petco site, but rather some guidelines overall. Rich Koehler sent WSB what he had put together earlier this month, after reviewing some of the early concepts with the project team. We asked if he’s an architect or otherwise in the business; no, he replied, he just sent a comment to the project team early on, and he was invited to meet with them, along with others, including Junction-area community-group and business-group leaders.

Koehler says he is interested in YOUR thoughts about his ideas. His 29-page “packet” – see it in its entirety here (PDF) – includes not only some suggestions to the 4724 California team, but also his thoughts on existing Junction development, what he sees as “good” and “bad.”

His examples of “good” Junction-area design include the Osborn building:

His examples of “bad” include Mural (east of where 4724 California is scheduled to go up):

Rich’s packet (four more than the Early Design Guidance packet from the development team, though less text-dense) – includes these suggested guidelines (this is also a screengrab from his “packet”):

He also refers to the West Seattle Junction’s official codified design guidelines – which are mentioned in the official project “packet,” too.

So what’s next? Unless the SWDRB sends the project team entirely back to the drawing board, their approval of its “early design guidance” will allow the team to proceed in the permit application process, during which the city also will take comments about the aforementioned environmental impacts. If the process goes as they hope, construction would start in spring of next year. The project team also reiterates they welcome your direct comments to them – the contact info is on their website.

95 Replies to "With Design Review next week, see the 4724 California concepts - and a citizen's response"

  • DBP May 17, 2012 (9:32 am)

    Very well-done citizen response. Thank you, Rich Koehler!
    What we want to avoid at all costs is those trashy “in-your-face hipster designs” and the urban canyon feeling you get with those charmless, big-box apartment developments. Yech!

  • Nick May 17, 2012 (9:37 am)

    Woah, bigger than I thought. All these new buildings aren’t bad, but I think we truly have seen the last of the “old” Junction.

  • I Wonder May 17, 2012 (9:40 am)

    Yep, theres the first snapshot of what California Ave will become, with this project and the new project going in across the corner from Easy Street. Is that what we want the main north/south street in West Seattle to become? Build it, and the rest will come in behind them. E-Bay looks dwarfed in the one picture as do the buildings on the west side of the project. Another viewpoint would be to include the other project on CA/ALK to visualize the look of the whole block, not just the neighboring buildings (looking east). 4 floors seems more reasonable on these blocks. Unless of course you are aiming for a high rise avenue, which seems to be the couse. West Seattle is going to be dump truck heaven with those two buildings, and the Oregon street project rolling at the same times.

  • Emma May 17, 2012 (9:54 am)

    It seems like the best solution (besides to leave West Seattle alone) is to preserve the street front. I’m not sure on whether 2 stories would do that. I don’t think so. Maybe one story (as is now) would be better, and building the building up further back. It would be best if you could not see all the new building from where you are standing on the street front. This is really depressing.

  • Jtk May 17, 2012 (10:03 am)

    So many empty apartment / condo buildings… I just don’t understand…. why build them, when no one is going to live in them… most of the ones that are already here are 1/2 empty… this is really sad…

  • JanS May 17, 2012 (10:03 am)

    I do like the pedestrian walkway that gets you from Calif. Ave. to 42nd SW midblock. But I still wonder about how this is going to cast a looming hulk of a building over the main business area. This will change the look and feel of the junction forever and ever. I hope they take a lot of thought going into this. I hope they realize what makes the junction unique, and don’t just throw “modern” at us.

    I appreciate Rich Koehler’s input. I agree that some of the architecture in some of the new buildings is indeed appalling, and doesn’t fit in. Yes, it’s probably more cost efficient…but when it comes to the junction area, a lot of thought has to be taken. I like the idea of brick/stone for the part facing Calif. Ave. Will be interesting to see what the designs given at the DRB look like. Unfortunately, they always schedule them on a Tuesday or Thursday., and I have a standing medical procedure on those nights, and can’t attend the design review…

  • Mark May 17, 2012 (10:08 am)

    where to begin….. The dentist and Elliott Bay get completely covered in shadow all day. It’s too massive. the preliminary drawings all follow the “bad design” principles.
    This proposal is worse than Ballard, it’s bringing downtown here.
    Please, no. Just no. 2 stories would fit best in the block, but I think many people could accept 3.

  • Mark May 17, 2012 (10:10 am)

    Does anybody know the occupancy rates for the Altamira and Mural? There’s already the project going up on Oregon/42nd. Will there be enough demand to overcome the local supply and make this project profitable? Or will the developer sell out as soon as it’s completed? All this construction would be a damper on any development at The Hole.

  • dbsea May 17, 2012 (10:14 am)

    I’m afraid the junction will end up a deep, dark canyon if these large buildings aren’t done well.

    Setting back the upper stories should help reduce that effect. As will differentiating the design and use of the 1st and 2nd floors. Lot boundary setback and space between these large structures will allow for more light, open sky and less feeling of being in a canyon.

  • B-squared May 17, 2012 (10:23 am)

    seven stories? Really? If this gets built, it will be the start of the canyonization of the junction. boo!!!

  • cjboffoli May 17, 2012 (10:28 am)

    I always watch these design reviews with equal parts of interest and disappointment. They never seem to produce anything beautiful or interesting in terms of design. All anyone has to do is to look at Capco Plaza in all of its beige glory – with its odd entrances and garish lighted signage in a mix of typefaces – to comprehend the severe limits of design by community. These situations all seem like a compromise between developers who (as sensible business people) want to maximize profit and a community with thousands of different ideas about what looks good with too little actual design literacy. The conversation is constantly muddied by the folks who are unreasonably attached to the concept of the primacy of private cars and the notion that West Seattle should remain a place where every household has the right to have two or more cars and should be able to park them for free within ten feet of their intended destination. Not to mention the psychographic that seems to endeavor to keep West Seattle cheap and ropey lest it becomes “Bellevue.”
    And just what is this fixation with the 1920’s? Certainly, Seattle grew tremendously during that time. And we’re left with the legacy of many wonderful Craftsman style houses. But other than a few random aesthetic details, West Seattle doesn’t have much in the way of grand 1920’s era public buildings. From what I can perceive, West Seattle’s design aesthetic has always been more about what is utilitarian with design and ornament relegated to the realm of accident or afterthought. There is nothing particularly attractive about the Osborn building pictured in this article. I don’t see how slapping cedar shakes and random brickwork on a box makes it anything but a “Disney” version of a faux-Arts and Crafts style.
    Our city has such strong immigrant ties to the cultures of Scandinavia and Lappland. Anyone who has traveled through Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark knows that they build gorgeous buildings of all types and sizes over there. Many of them are marvelous hybrids of rustic wood and modern glass and steel. They’re also courageous enough to impart new ideas in their architecture, not just default to some arbitrary 90 year-old aesthetic that was fashionable when their grandparents were in grade school. Why aren’t we as successful with our architecture?
    We live in one of the most innovative countries in the world in a city built on jets, software and online commerce – forward-thinking industries of the future. But I don’t understand how we’re so incapable of any kind of fresh ideas and innovation in terms of the public participation in the design of our built environment in West Seattle. Personally, I think we can do a lot better.

  • scooter_grrl May 17, 2012 (10:38 am)

    It’s exciting to see the development plans at this point and hope we end up with good quality development on such an important corner. I completely agree that the Osborn is a great example of what good design is and the QFC site should be the opposite of what goes in here.

    One big comment I have is that the planview shows a mid-block crossing (and is mentioned in the description) and I would love to see this happen. It would help break up the long block and connect CA with 42nd in a way that could further encourage good retail/development.

    The set-back on the north side transitions nicely from the two-story to the higher building.

    Looking forward to seeing more!

  • AN May 17, 2012 (10:39 am)

    Why do all these out of state people want to come in and deface West Seattle!!!

  • Great! May 17, 2012 (10:42 am)

    Is anyone currently living in WS actually happy and excited about this project and overbuilding in the Junction/entire WS? Do the builders/investors actually live in WS? New apartment projects are popping up everywhere here, and many are still vacant. Just because it’s a less expensive time to build doesnt necessarily mean you should. Can’t wait for more traffic over the bridge and on the WS streets!

  • KD May 17, 2012 (10:49 am)

    I think the concepts and sketches looks great! I love the idea of creating an opening to access the alley and parking behind the building. It seems to me that the updated building will be a significant improvement to the entire junction. The current space is not attractive and comes across as dead space with no “life”. It’s okay to have a taller structure in the junction, as long as the street facing retail space is well designed and inviting.

  • Aman May 17, 2012 (10:52 am)

    Kudos to West Seattle citizen-resident Rich Koehler for taking the time to thoughtfully provide design suggestions and examples.


    Directionally I support what Mr. Koehler is trying to communicate to the Development team at the upcoming “Early Design Review Committee” meeting.

  • DB May 17, 2012 (10:53 am)

    I find it very interesting that the “preferred view” doesn’t show the top 2.5 stories of the project. If it did, it would show just how out of place such a tall building will be there.

  • chris May 17, 2012 (10:53 am)

    I’m not worried…this will never fly. Way overscaled. I trust in saner heads.

  • Norma May 17, 2012 (10:58 am)

    I think this is a good location for this kind of development. I like the model of retail below and living above. It’s nice to see modulated outside surfaces but please don’t use that awful vertical corrugated siding! It’s nice to use materials that blend into our beautiful Northwest landscape. The other thing that concerns me all along the California Ave. corridor is the lack of mini parks. We’re doing some but need a lot more especially if we’re increasing the living capcity. Basically I like the design if you provide some outdoor space.

  • Peter on Fauntleroy May 17, 2012 (10:59 am)

    I can’t wait to see Wolff’s designs in more detail. In the meantime, I have feedback on Rich Koehler’s packet. I’m going to be critical, it’s not personal, I simply see things differently and it’s my neighborhood, too:

    I disagree with most of his assessments of what is “good” and “bad” design. The Osborn building is tacky and cheap looking with its faux arches, it looks like an amusement park design. On the other hand Mural is a good design because it effectively breaks up the mass of the building with various different angles, materials, and setbacks. Capco is a good design because it is pedestrian oriented and easily accessible from the sidewalks, but I agree it needs less signage. I agree the Dakota is a good design, but all that brick is very expensive and greatly increases costs for the builder and future owners/renters.

    For really mind-numbingly horrible design, see the entire Jefferson Square block.

    Appealing to 1920s style seems arbitrary. A few buildings in the neighborhood date from the 1920s, but that’s not a good basis for expecting new buildings to emulate that. It is not the 1920s.

    What Mr. Koehler calls “clashing angles” serve the important purpose of breaking up the mass of the building and adding architectural variety. Rigid insistence of everything being at right angles is bad design because it takes away much of the architects ability to be creative with a structure.

    Some of Mr. Koehler’s ideas are just odd. His suggestion of no vinyl precludes using the best available building materials. For example, vinyl windows and doors are the best product available on the market today for energy efficiency and longevity.

    Finally, a question for Rich Koehler: what is “hipster” design?

  • miws May 17, 2012 (11:01 am)

    Okay, I usually don’t get involved in the development topics, because, frankly, my strongest opinions on them come purely from emotion and sentiment, and I’d just be that cranky old fart grumbling about “Why can’t West Seattle be just like it was in the ’60’s?”.


    That being said, of relatively newer developments, I really like the looks of the Osborn, and the Dakota, almost directly across the street.


    I happen to be very fond of stone/brickwork on buildings,and that is what I find appealing about them.


    Just wish it went up the entire building on the Osborn….



  • patt May 17, 2012 (11:04 am)

    When Belltown went through the same type of conversion (except much higher) The buildings were stepped back. No more then two stories at the side walk, then it went higher from there.

    This kept 2nd Ave from being a canyon.

    It was a long hard fight by the community in the 80’s. With the exception of “special exception” it stayed a very walker friendly Ave till the 2000’s. They were an other story.

    Development is inevitable. I wish I could make it to the Youngstown meeting. I would like to see this Ave be a valley not a canyon.

  • OP May 17, 2012 (11:07 am)

    The usual kicking and Whining from the anti-growth/NIMBY/armchair architects lot. Relax, the future isn’t that scary.

  • I Wonder May 17, 2012 (11:21 am)

    If you’re such a fan of density and high rises, please move to Ballard, Mercer Island or Bellevue. You would be sooo happy there.

  • quesera May 17, 2012 (11:24 am)

    Goodbye, Junction. Sorry the California developers have gotten you into their sights and insist upon killing you.

    Hey, maybe the strip in White Center can become our new ‘hood? Hmm….

    Thanks Rich Koehler, for your efforts! Love your ideas!

  • villagegreen May 17, 2012 (11:24 am)

    @cjboffoli – well said!! I’ve been wondering the exact same thing for years. With such strong Scandinavian ties here I’ve never understood why so much of the architecture is so clunky and often times downright ugly. I’ve always referenced the old SAM as the pinnacle of embarrassing Seattle design. Let good designers design. The downtown library is a prime example of the possibilities.

  • Anne May 17, 2012 (11:26 am)

    I like the cross-through to 42nd-just not sure how much open parking will be available after the building on the corner (Calif. & Alaska)gets built. That said there is nothing else about this
    project that I like-if it was not as tall-I think I could be persuaded-as is no.

  • dsa May 17, 2012 (11:34 am)

    As long as the zoning permits it and developers perceive a demand, these seven story hulks are coming.

  • coffee May 17, 2012 (11:48 am)

    I have a friend in the QFC apartment building and frankly I would NEVER pay for the space he pays for. Basically 2 rooms and a bathroom for almost 1,400 a month and ZERO interior charm. THey didn’t even put a door on the washer so when you are using the toilet you look right at the washer and dryer combo. YUCK.

  • Jiggers May 17, 2012 (12:11 pm)

    cj.. I think that the downtown Central Library is also built by an Architect from Denmark or Germany Not sure..But as you can see the libraries transparencies are quite unique. Not boring that’s for sure. It has become a to do thing and see for tourists visiting here now.

  • godofthebasement May 17, 2012 (12:11 pm)

    I have to challenge those above who are making specious and false claims about “1/2 empty” (from Jtk) and “still vacant” (from Great!) buildings. I am challenging you both to name these “1/2 empty” and “vacant” buidlings, and to call them and find out what their actual vacancy rate is. You will find out you are wrong, which I suspect you already know. Spreading false information doesn’t do anyone any good, so please stop it.

    Oh, and “Great!,” yes there are people many who live in West Seattle who are “happy and excited about this project.” And Oregon/42. And Equity at CA/AK. And Link. And Nova. And hopefully soon The Hole. I hope the pace of development in West Seattle picks up more. And I believe the non-comment posting majority in WS are happy to see our community growing.

    • WSB May 17, 2012 (12:21 pm)

      Been out covering stuff all morning but did mean to note, last time we checked with Harbor/Urban, they said Mural and Link had low vacancy rates. Can’t speak for anything else. But something in the market is signaling the developers to go – the economist we covered at the West Seattle Chamber awards breakfast last month mentioned that it’s all about apartments right now – because there are many more in the pipeline. The project on Avalon a few doors south of 35th is getting closer to starting; the one at 35th/Avalon is finally being finished; and as noted here recently, Madison Development is supposed to say something “soon” about its plans for restarting the mixed-use project at The Hole, which it bought last fall. – TR

  • sarelly May 17, 2012 (12:23 pm)

    I agree with Rich Koehler’s sentiment that the new design should respect the existing architectural character of the neighborhood – perhap the team should consult with specialists in historic preservation. The impact of a building of this scale is important. Not blocking the light or the views is extremely important. Open space is important. Sensitive design takes the context into account – the whole neighborhood, its scale, materials, uses, traffic patterns, density, access, etc – and doesn’t just design a cool building and then randomly plunk it down whether it fits or not.

  • sarelly May 17, 2012 (12:40 pm)

    Also, what exactly is a “Live / Work” space?

  • I Wonder May 17, 2012 (12:42 pm)

    Thanks Tracy for the vacancy updates. When you see sandwich board humans on the intersections promoting apts., then that should tell you somthing. Just sayin…

  • cb May 17, 2012 (12:45 pm)

    While I appreciate Rich Koehler’s efforts in compiling his opinions on this development, I resent the fact that his voice gets a disproportionate representation in the post. Thanks to cjboffoli and Peter for their thoughtful counterpoints (whose points of view I happen to wholeheartedly agree with). To those who call for historic preservation in this location: I believe you would be hard-pressed to find any advocates for preserving the existing Petco building, which currently has a strongly negative effect on the continuity of the street edge. If, on the other hand, you are suggesting building new to resemble old, recognize that there is a big difference between contextual compatibility and ersatz historicism. The former may be appropriate, but the latter will simply lead to a Disneyland Main Street on California Avenue.

  • jiggers May 17, 2012 (12:49 pm)

    What is Altamira’s vacancy rate? It seems when I always pass by at night very few apartments have lights on. That maybe the most expensive building to live in the Junction. Next to Mural. Ridiculous! And they want to build more like them with a higher price to rent?…lol

  • fauntleroy fairy May 17, 2012 (1:19 pm)

    Thank you AN!
    7 stories? Are you kidding me? There should be a height restriction on California Ave for the 2 main blocks of the Junction. Won’t be much fun strolling the Street Fair in the summer if it turns out we are all going to be shaded by these monoliths! And to you “godofthebasement”, I think you need to remain there because you are out of step with the rest of the WS natives who like it here. Progress isn’t progress if it removes a quality of life.

  • JSW May 17, 2012 (1:24 pm)

    “Build it and they will come”…

    but that doesn’t mean they will like it… :-)

  • Jtk May 17, 2012 (1:32 pm)

    If i wanted to live where there were tall tall buildings towering over me.. in the CITY feel… I would live downtown….

    ‘godofthebasement’ – you’re so pretty….

  • CE May 17, 2012 (1:40 pm)

    Something that follows the good design principles from the Junction Input packet is the only acceptable way, in my opinion.

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (1:58 pm)

    agree with most of what cjboffoli stated; very well said; I expressed similar opinion while meeting with designers earlier this month; even in the U.S., there are wonderful examples (Chicago, NYC) of mixing beautiful new modern with old historic; please be bold/creative; show us something gorgeous, innovative
    also not at all unexpected, many of the comments upset about the height/scale of the project, which has already been set long ago by the city zoning, and is a done deal; of course the developers are going to build up to the city mandated height limit; it’s up to us to passionately advocate for a stunning design
    I would also like to see example of what is meant by “hipster” design
    btw, I expect significant exodus of Mural, since most of the west facing apts will completely lose their views, face the east wall of this project; fortunately for the residents there, it’s apts, not condos; so easy to move without losing investment

  • WSTroll May 17, 2012 (1:58 pm)

    This is ridiculous. Do not want. If we cannot stop this how can we stop future development plans such as this? What regulations need to be reviewed and changed? We do not have the infrastructure for these developments.

  • mtnpeak May 17, 2012 (2:01 pm)

    Hear hear, cjboffoli.

  • Wes C. Addle May 17, 2012 (2:10 pm)

    I’ll chime in here as a resident of the Altamira. There are very few empty apartments that are available. I had a friend call a few months ago as he was interested in moving in and there were no apartments available. I moved into Altamira because it was much cheaper and quieter than the Mural. The Link apts. are priced very similar to the Mural. Since living at Altamira I rarely drive. I bus to work and walk around and do all of my shopping in the Junction, I’d say that’s good for the local businesses. My only peeve is with the parking. We used to be able to park in the QFC garage but since the Petco and Liquor store moved in they have booted us out since they parking spaces would be needed. If you go into the lower parking garage when it’s busy not even half of it is being used.

    • WSB May 17, 2012 (2:29 pm)

      Thanks for commenting, WCA. Interesting about the parking; I was going to say, the liquor store is closing, but OTOH the building owner won the auction for the license and so might be reopening it (I need to check) … TR

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (2:17 pm)

    WSTroll, you can try appealing to the city council to roll back this longstanding zoning in the junction; good luck; all this development brings money into city; and by the time/if any roll back is even possible, all these 7 story apts will be built; city process is very lengthy; Equity will likely start demolition soon; I think most West Seattle residents have no idea what is coming in that massive project, and will change to look/feel of our downtown way before this PETCO project starts

  • Brandon May 17, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    One thing i do agree with is that if they are going to build the buildings, which they are, that the community needs to get involved and have them “set-back” the living spaces so that it doesn’t feel like a canyon. You can’t do much except argue for that. Which with enough support we could win.

  • Christopher Boffoli May 17, 2012 (2:41 pm)

    Jiggers: Actually, Rem Koolhaas is Dutch. The Netherlands is another place where they’re not afraid to embrace beautiful, forward thinking design within a historic context, not to mention bright colors, which help to mitigate their similarly long months of gray skies.
    Sarelly: I disagree that new architecture has to subjugate itself to the existing architectural character of the neighborhood. I think that is especially misguided when the previous aesthetic is wholly incoherent. If Seattle planners had always adhered to that principle, we’d all be living in longhouses with salmon drying on wooden racks outside of our doors. I say let’s make room for what’s new. Just as diversity of design prevails in nature, so too should it exist in the design of our cities.

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (2:51 pm)

    again, agree with Christopher Boffoli

  • Dizzle May 17, 2012 (2:57 pm)

    Dang, 7 stories? Why can’t they make it at least 10…I would get so much more enjoyment reading the elitist comments here!

  • John May 17, 2012 (3:05 pm)

    What’s new doesn’t have to be ugly. We also don’t want to make California avenue a canyon with 7 stories right next to the sidewalk.

    We don’t have to keep the “old” architecture just for old time sake, but we also don’t have to embrace new just because it’s new.

    The examples of good architecture I agree with – they are modern, but have some connection to past architecture.

    Let’s think forward a bit into the future and see if whatever design choices we make now are really what we want a whole lot more of 10 or 20 years from now.

    Me personally, the examples of poor development I don’t want any more of because it will make West Seattle not as quite a nice place to live.

  • trickycoolj May 17, 2012 (3:32 pm)

    After seeing the tiny 800 sq ft 2 bedroom apartments at the Junction going for nearly $1500/mo plus utilities, I ran away back to Northgate last summer. I now happily have a 1300 sq ft new construction townhome in West Seattle, with a mortgage that is less than the rent at those fancy new apartments. I don’t understand who the target audience is for such overpriced apartments. College grads in their first jobs certainly can’t afford them, white collars working downtown want perfect picket fence homes on Queen Anne, this isn’t a convenient neighborhood for commuting students to UW, SPU, and SU… so who is the supposed demand for these buildings?

  • godofthebasement May 17, 2012 (3:37 pm)

    @ Fauntleroy Fairy: I’m not sure where you want me to “remain,” but I’m staying right where I am in West Seattle, and I’m going to continue advocating for density, too.

    @ Jtk: Thanks! Now, as to the allegedly empty and 1/2 empty buildings you referred to earlier, are you willing to name them yet so we can fact check you?

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (3:54 pm)

    the developer, Wolff Company, just bought another property to develop on Cap Hill; looks like they’re here to stay, and getting more and more invested in Seattle

  • datamuse May 17, 2012 (4:02 pm)

    Well, trickycoolj, judging by the vacancy rates cited, clearly SOMEBODY wants them.
    Not everybody wants a huge amount of space. Not everybody wants a yard.
    I don’t see why this is so hard to grasp.

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (4:05 pm)

    nope, did not hear this or see link before; thanks

  • pjmanley May 17, 2012 (4:14 pm)

    Chris: Your arguments are specious. Nobody is seriously saying “don’t change anything” or “everything must be built like it was in 1920,” or the like. Longhouses & Salmon? Come-on Dude, be serious. I like John’s comments above, because I think that’s a view held by many people who merely want whatever change that comes to blend into the neighborhood as best it can, with as little impact as possible, given the dramatic change in scale. Is it really too much to simply ask people to be considerate of those who’ve built, walked, and patronized the Junction for decades, and to try to build a building that ties into an area while at the same time modernizing & densifying it? I don’t think so. Only one word comes to mind when I see the preliminary designs: Radical. And what word doesn’t come to mind? Quality.

  • trickycoolj May 17, 2012 (4:20 pm)

    @datamuse Thanks for the cordial welcome to the neighborhood. Regardless how much space someone wants, if they like to live minimal or want a yard, the difference in price shouldn’t cost more per square foot for less space.

  • sarelly May 17, 2012 (5:03 pm)

    By “historic” I mean a building that would be merit addition to the National Register of Historic Places – I bet West Seattle has a few older buildings from before 1930 that would serve as examples.

    Whether in an older style or newer style, additions should be consistent with their surroundings. Particularly with regard to scale, because if they start building way up, they are going to block the light and the views and turn California Ave into an outdoor tunnel.

    But they are going to do whatever they want, so this is academic at best.

  • dawsonct May 17, 2012 (5:11 pm)

    I always enjoy reading comments from people who seem to not know from which direction the sun shines on the Northern hemisphere during the afternoon.
    On the other hand, those people who like to camp out in the middle of the mid-block crosswalk are going to be in the shade for a few minutes every morning. Hope they survive their ordeal.

    We live in a city, folks, and in a nice close-in neighborhood to boot. Cities grow, change, evolve constantly, deal with it. No one promised when you moved here (and, like Seattle itself, WS is mostly transplants), that they were pulling up the drawbridge as soon as you crossed. Those of you who HAVE lived here for a long time or all their life and are pissed by all the “newcomers,” you need to get angry with Jeanette Williams. One operable low-level bascule bridge would have been enough to keep WS remote and quaint for a good long time.

  • mightymo May 17, 2012 (5:17 pm)

    I wish I could be at the design review. I’m actually quite excited that the ugly PetCo building storefront will be replaced, and I’m hoping for plenty of space for small shops with reasonable rents. The design in their sketch is bland and boxy; my hope is they have more ideas for something friendlier and less cookie-cutter than a lot of projects in Seattle.
    When we bought a house in West Seattle a couple of years ago near the Junction, we were a little disappointed how sleepy that area can be on off hours. One benefit of density there will be a more well-rounded experience, with more morning activity, shops to visit during the day, and increased nightlife. I’m cautiously optimistic.

  • Ripper May 17, 2012 (5:27 pm)

    The PDF was great! I’m sure the developers will quickly discard it and shove more sh-t down our throats.

  • J May 17, 2012 (5:33 pm)

    I agree more with Mr. Boffoli than with Mr. Koehler. The problem isn’t so much the materials, as the design. Slapping come fancy trim or color on a building with boring “bones” doesn’t really improve the design.

    I welcome increasing density and reducing parking requirements–this will bring transit improvements faster.

    But I do think not building a box that fills all the available space would help the pedestrian experience, and reduce the dark canyon effect.

    The existing pedestrian passthrough is dark, dirty, and ugly, albeit useful. How could one be designed that would avoid the collection of urine, cigarette butts, and garbage, and make for a pleasant pedestrian experience?

  • J May 17, 2012 (5:38 pm)

    “In elevation along California the podium will be comprised of ground floor retail and Live/Work units at the second floor.”

    Dear development team, I’d have more confidence in your sense of style if you displayed it in your language: please correct misuse of “comprise”.

  • AN May 17, 2012 (5:54 pm)

    If we allow this building then the Conner project will go back to the board and build the one they wanted. Then it’s not long before the streets are lined with tall 7 to 10 story buildings.
    The only place we will ever have full sun will be when we are on Harbor Ave in the morning and Alki at Noon.
    The street fair will be cold wtih out sun and the wind tunnel these buildings will cause will blow all the vender tents down.

  • datamuse May 17, 2012 (6:31 pm)

    I don’t really understand the sarcasm, trickycoolj, but okay: wouldn’t the price be what the market will bear? If people are willing to pay that much for the things–maybe they like the location–then why would a developer charge less?
    For the record, I live in a single family house some distance from the Junction. If people want houses or town homes, my usual run around the neighborhood shows plenty for sale.
    It’s not that I don’t sympathize with people’s aesthetic objections, but the Junction has struck me as pretty stagnant since I moved to West Seattle in 1999. The only building of any size was Jefferson Square, which is a nightmare to navigate–if it weren’t for the vet, I’d never go there. Having more shopping options seems like a good thing to me. No?

  • John May 17, 2012 (7:44 pm)

    My earlier point was focused on not making the mistakes that other communities have done with their architecture. We don’t need canyons nor do we need buildings that look fine now, but will be drab and ugly in 10 years (like Jefferson Square). We need buildings that are of high quality exteriors so that they don’t look run down and drab 10 years from now – that’s why brick and stone are popular – they hold up well with time.
    You can still use brick/masonry and have a nice modern design as was shown in the examples. It’s also fine with me if you go for a modern look, but many of the newer buildings have no character or uniqueness – they are just designed to be maxed out in units and retail space and have a thin skin of superficial modern looks.

    I’m also disappointed in the design drawings as they have had little detail put into them to show the community what they will really look like. Colors, materials, design details – all missing.

    As citizens we need to make our voices heard as to how we want our community to develop and the type and style of buildings that get put up.

    Don’t need the 1920’s architecture repeated, but I sure don’t want cheap, modern, and boring either.

  • Matt May 17, 2012 (9:19 pm)

    The design review process is broken. It provides the segment of the public that perceives itself to be victimized by changes to the city with just enough empowerment to force developers to slap on a gaudy, artless pastiche to obfuscate their ultimate goal and placate them. It does not necessary produce a better city or better building, but it is the Seattle way.

    Enjoy the dialogue, and I’ll check back in in fifty years when we hold these new buildings up as exemplars of good design and cast aspersions on whatever new is being build down the street.

    Rant complete.

  • Chrisd May 17, 2012 (9:52 pm)

    Hire Rich Koehler to oversee all development projects. Great commonsense perspective.

  • sun*e May 17, 2012 (10:33 pm)

    Blah, blah, blah…enough already about the aesthetics of the project. I agree that we want the growth of WS to be true to self and we should all embrace that change is going to come. However, I don’t understand why no one is addressing the fact that we already have a horrendous commute. With that said, I can’t embrace more population in WS until we address the problem with our commute…we’re putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

    • WSB May 17, 2012 (11:24 pm)

      Sun*e – I asked Peter Wolff, the executive of the company buying the site for this development, that question, about whether the clogged bridge is a concern. He is a former Seattleite, currently living in Arizona, where the company is headquartered, though it was founded by his grandfather in Spokane. The main reply he offered was basically that more transit service might result from more residents. But the other part of the equation, which others have alluded to, is that congestion wouldn’t be so horrible if it wasn’t that West Seattle is basically a “bedroom community” … most people have to leave to go to jobs elsewhere … what if West Seattle became home to more employers? Including more small businesses (working on WSB full-time starting in fall 2007 took me off the bridge, for example, except for the occasional court hearing or government meeting)? The envisioned 18 live-to-work units in this building theoretically might take a few more out of the mix. In our first interview with the project team, we also mentioned offhand that West Seattle has no official co-work space …

  • Rick May 17, 2012 (10:37 pm)

    Yeah, I think my 40+ years in this wonderful neighborhood have pretty much run their course. Best wishes to all. As many newbies have exclaimed “if you don’t like it, leave”,and I will. I wish the same pox on them. Fond memories, and I will keep them. Thank-you.

  • Matt May 17, 2012 (10:38 pm)

    Yes, with a supreme overlord of all seattle development, I’m sure we’ll all be happier.

    I’m eager to see the his new design for Sonics Arena.

  • Rich Koehler May 17, 2012 (11:32 pm)

    Hi guys – thanks for the feedback and comments.
    Let me fill in a few blanks. There are really only two factors driving the design of this and other big projects in our area: zoning, and citizen participation in the design and review process.
    The 85 foot height limits were set something like 20 years ago. You can’t blame developers now for putting up 7-story buildings with minor setbacks, when we had 20 years to address it in our zoning. It is still possible to avert the canyon effect if we downzone the south side of the street. Keep in mind that this is actually the second giant project going in; construction on the Conner project at the main interesction will start before this one. They are huge, huge, significant buildings. You will need to see it to believe it. But there is not much sense to arguing that this project should be much smaller, since the zoning permits it. Please instead put that energy into rezoning the area, and on input that can influence the style and quality of the projects such as they are. Also beyond this project, I also recommend that we start thinking about how to bring major employers into the area, as per the comments about Fremont, and the triangle, above.
    Regarding citizen participation, the reason I contacted WSB was to get your feedback. I found myself and only a few other people speaking to the project team. Whether you like it or not, this has made me one of your few vocal, local spokespersons. I didn’t mean for that to happen, I just found myself in that position, without having any mandate or input from you. I wanted to address that. Thank you Tracy for posting my material and using your blog as a forum for comment.
    The project team has done a good job factoring in feedback. They made sure the street front was all retail, put in the alley pass-through, and used a 3-story frontage with upper setback as a direct result of our comments. Citizen participation does have an effect! A lot of good ideas come up that help the team fit the building into the community, and the design team works harder when they know they are under scrutiny.
    This part of the design process concerns massing – not style. They’ve addressed literally every one of my comments at this stage, to one degree or another.
    I appreciate that good design can be traditional or modern. I loved the designs I saw in Finland and nobody finds “faux craftsman” a more deplorable outcome than I do. However, I want timeless architecture for this street, consistency in the overall streetscape, and ties to the history of the area. The angled tower feature seemed to require a modernist style and draw attention to the height of the building. To their credit they produced a “traditional” alternative to show a treatment in response to this. I haven’t reviewed their options yet, but it has been great to read your comments about them and I would like to know how you feel about the tower and the two directions.
    See you at the design review!

  • Harmonic May 17, 2012 (11:40 pm)

    So weird. I was working downtown Monday amongst all of the 26-34 story building and I was, get this, warm. The zoning happened years ago. They will build. I’m not sure I would qualify the ex-Petco space as architecturally pleasing.

  • Diane May 17, 2012 (11:56 pm)

    thank you Rich; well said; look forward to seeing you again at the EDG

  • sun*e May 18, 2012 (12:01 am)

    @WSB – Okay, I have to say/confess that for the past 4 years I’m actually one of the few that is fortunate enough to live and work in WS. However, the other day I had to venture off of our peninsula for a workshop at 7:15 am and was mortified! I truly can’t imagine having to do that everyday and I feel for those that do. The reality is that we go where the job/opportunity takes us. God forbid if my opportunity ever knocks outside of WS! I’m sorry to say that if/when that time comes I’ll need to relocate unless the transportation Gods prevail!

  • Rich Koehler May 18, 2012 (12:36 am)

    Thanks Diane.
    (To everyone) I had a thought – suppose we looked at the Triangle as an area for brave, modern expression and employer/business space.
    And the Junction, with its historic connection and the family-focused events there, we agreed should follow traditional styling and have street retail focus?
    That would work for me.

  • sun*e May 18, 2012 (1:43 am)

    @WSB again – I neglected to mention that I understand what you’re sayin’ and I totally agree – it would be so beneficial for all if these new buildings included some kind of office space for employers/employment… if you build it they will come… and stay in WS. :-)

  • Matt May 18, 2012 (6:12 am)

    For those looking to argue the slight twist is modern, please check out the Acropolis. The ancient Greeks knew that by rotating the structure just a bit off grid, it gives it a more dynamic presence.

  • denise May 18, 2012 (8:13 am)

    Remember Alki, before all those huge, horrible condos where built?

  • cj May 18, 2012 (8:20 am)

    All these big buildings make me very sad. The old West Seattle is being phased out. I don’t think their safe, we don’t have room for all the drivers they will hold and when I watched Mural going up I was shocked at how it looked like nothing but wood support after the first few floors.

  • bettytheyeti May 18, 2012 (9:24 am)

    From the developers original post that the “city” of West Seattle can not hold back progress. Reality check, West Seattle is a “neighborhood” in the city of Seattle. That why I moved to WS, not Belltown, nor Pioneer Square. City =downtown. Yes, HiRise appropriate in a CITY.

    The AK Junction had an opportunity to designate an historic district like Ballard’s Market St. but declined several years ago. The Seattle Library is Rem Koolhaas- a Dutch architect. It was not built by committee.

    I see this project as inevitable, welcome to BelWest. 4724 CAL says welcome to the- jungle, the urban jungle.

  • Zachary May 18, 2012 (11:30 am)

    To those who keep saying ‘this is really sad’- you mean to tell me you would would prefer to keep the windowless, blank one-storey dump that use to be a pet-co in the center of the junction?? This development brings people, vitality, new businesses and increased diversity and interest to West Seattle. May I remind you that you live within a growing, thriving city which has always been in a state of change and evolvement. You want stagnation then you may want to consider moving. Whats inportant here is working to ensure good planning and design through community and business interaction and understanding.

  • LE May 18, 2012 (12:18 pm)

    There are banners hanging from light poles all over the neighborhood declaring that the Junction is West Seattle’s “downtown”. The Junction has been a commercial center forever. It already has 7-story buildings, and has been zoned that way for a generation.The existing building is an eyesore, certainly not an icon for historic preservation. The Junction has even been encouraged to develop into a sort of mass transit hub.
    I could join in with what I like or don’t like about the proposal, but mostly that would be irrelevant. It’s not my project, my land, my money. I presume they’ll follow zoning rules, construction codes, etc.
    We own a house. We hope someday to be able to afford an extensive rebuild. When (if) we get there, we’ll be working with an architect and a reputable builder. We’ll follow zoning rules and building codes. We love our neighborhood and our neighbors, but we don’t anticipate holding meetings with our neighbors asking them to approve our choices. Because it will be our choice.

  • Jennie May 18, 2012 (12:23 pm)

    To Zachary -> Yes, I would like the old pet-co building to stay and I’d like it to be a roller rink please with maybe ice skating in the winter :)

  • george May 18, 2012 (1:08 pm)

    Was E-Bay that attractive before they re-did the front? I would expect the same of ANYONE who took over the Petco building, be it a local business, or a developer. It’s a no-brainer people. On another note, how many local businesses have gone under this past year? Hard to say all this development is spuring local business. Would tend to stay away from the Junction and *gasp* go to Admiral. aack.

  • Ripper May 18, 2012 (2:03 pm)

    Zachary: Nice job with the false choice there. You can either have a. the old piece of crap or b. the new more monstrous piece of crap

    Apparently nothing exists other than these.

  • quiz May 18, 2012 (3:20 pm)

    Looks quite thoughtfully done. Keep up the good work!

  • Diane May 18, 2012 (3:21 pm)

    agree with Zachary; well said

  • ttt May 18, 2012 (11:42 pm)

    I love your comments Rich Koehler. Thanks for being a thoughtful and active voice for our junction area! I agree with your sentiments!

  • steve May 21, 2012 (10:21 am)

    As a resident of the Altamira, not once did I think the placement of the washer/dryer across from the toilet as ‘ew, gross.’

    @jiggers: The Altamira is mostly full.

  • fauntleroy fairy May 21, 2012 (12:29 pm)

    – godofthe “basement”

    You’re words, not mine. I stand by my comments.

Sorry, comment time is over.