(South residential, street level)
The 134-unit, 152-parking-space, ~450-foot-long building at 3210 California SW was presented to the Southwest Design Review Board tonight for the fifth time – and this time, the board voted to recommend approval. Here’s how it unfolded:
PROJECT TEAM PRESENTATION: Boyd Pickrell from Nicholson Kovalchick Architects said he wanted to “laser in” on the points that were brought up at the fourth meeting, and the architects’ response. He showed off, first, the massing changes – height/bulk/scale. “The big move here is that we have eliminated the top floor of the north building,” he said. That “creates stairstepping of roof lines along California,” he added.
“We also chose to set back the upper stories of the middle and south buildings. .. It also takes the windows with the most overlook on (adjacent) properties and pushes them further back from the property line.” And, he said, he followed their advice for 25-foot gaps between the buildings. With the lowering of the north building, more roof deck space has been created on that building, with reduced penthouses on the middle and south buildings. As for the bridge between the north and middle buildings, which had been a point of concern previously – a board majority wanted to get rid of it – he said it’s shorter since the northernmost building is shorter and it will be almost invisible from the street, and the project team thinks it should stay. If it goes, they will have to add more exits for the building to stand on its own and that will cost some retail. Plus, it won’t allow as easy access to the rooftop deck from other parts of the building.
Regarding materials, Pickrell said they were planning the buildings now as “friends, not family,” to include some relativity, when it came to materializes – some adobe colors on windows. He recalled the middle building was supposed to be “radically different,” so the west facade of the middle. There’s some bright yellow touches and other touches including a ground-floor recess. There’s some masonry work. Andy Rasmussen, landscape designer, discussed some of the exterior touches.
BOARD QUESTIONS: T. Frick McNamara said the windows didn’t seem to have changed, though the project team said they would. Pickrell said the sill height had changed, but not the amount of glass. She also asked about the size of the retail spaces – each about 2,000 square feet, they replied. And calling attention to the “north retail courtyard” and what looked like a materials change in an awkward spot, she was told that’s “probably a mistake.” Laird Bennion, who is now the board chair, asked about square footage of the roof amenity, now that it’s moved to one. He also pointed to the yellow-green now prominent on the second building, saying it looks like “post-it notes” on the front and is somewhat overwhelming on the east side. Pickrell said they weren’t necessarily sold on the green.
PUBLIC COMMENT: New chair Bennion called this the “most fun” part of the meeting, since “we get to hear what West Seattle wants the new building to look like.” He reiterated that the comments are to be addressed to the board, and “we’re supposed to (be the receptors) of your opinion.”
First, Deb Barker, former DRB member who critiques most projects, hailed “great steps” made by the project team. “Glad to see the top floor gone (on the north building), but I do resent the need for speed on the applicant’s part and I don’t think I’ve heard ‘oops, that’s a mistake’ so many times in one meeting. (And) I hope the skybridge will be gone; from the rear it still presents (this as) one big building. If there’s a rooftop deck,” she said, it should have glass around its perimeter, rather than being blocked off. Regarding the “friends, not family” material variation, she said “but they still shop at Old Navy,” drawing laughter from the gallery. She urged that the project not be rushed through.
Bernadette, who lives closest to the project, said, “Great job on some of the changes,” noting that she’s especially glad about the partial floor removal, but “when we talked about a setback at the last meeting, I’m having a hard time understanding how three feet is going to affect my house [in terms of shadowing] .. My PURSE is three feet long.” Pickrell showed the “shading study” page and said there would be a shadow, but the changes do lessen it.
Margaret, also a neighbor, said this was her first time at Design Review. She said she keeps hearing the term “urban feel,” but “this is not downtown … this is West Seattle.” As someone not likely to live there, she said she’d likely walk in front of it, but it would still “look like one big building.” And overall, she still said it looks and feels “boxy.”
Marci, another neighbor, said she wanted to clarify some information about the shadowing.
Chris said he was voicing his support for the project.
Another neighbor said he’s “behind the green wall,” and thought “maybe some brick to displace some of the scary green” would be appropriate. He also lauded the project team for some of the changes, along the way, and said “we’re closing in on a building that at least won’t be embarrassing for the Admiral neighborhood.” However, all that green might be somewhat embarrassing on the back side, he said. And ideally, “the other two buildings should be shorter,” too. He then wondered about the penthouses, which looked huge, and discussed ensued about how, without the bridge, they would need another elevator.
The next person to speak said she “agreed with comments about solar access for abutting residents,” and while the “average-3-foot setback helps on summer solstice, it’s not enough – this site is different, there’s no transitional zone, I feel like the mitigation should be significant as well.” About materials, she said, “maybe the applicant is trying too hard to make the west facades different from the east ones.” She thought it would make sense if the front and back sides had the “same language.”
John said he’s watched this project and “feels they’ve done a terrific job addressing (the issues).” As for the colors, everybody wants something different, he observed, and if too many considerations/concessions happen, costs are added, and something will be taken out to make up for the price. He wondered if each review meeting might be costing the applicant another $20,000. (That led to audience members protesting that their home values were likely dropping $20,000 each.) He thought it was time to move the project forward.
The next commenter also said that the more the project is brought back, the more the chances are the site might turn over and someone maxing it out could try to develop it next.
After her, Chris, said he felt the project would be fantastic, “creat(ing) synergy between the two Junctions”; his family doesn’t usually head north of The Junction because things “tend to die out” there.
Frequent participant Diane Vincent said that it didn’t seem as if the rooftop amenity would be inaccessible if the bridge were lost.
And finally, Paul‘s main comments were that some of the slides shown tonight had not appeared in the packet that was uploaded to the DPD site, which he said also needed the FAR information (floor-area ratio). And with the details emerging about 3211 California across the street, he saw “West Seattle canyons” shaping up.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: The matter of “bridge or no bridge,” regarding a bridge between the north and middle buildings, was extensively debated. McNamara advocated strongly for losing it, which she said would bring in more light and air. Bennion said he thinks the current version of the building works better with the bridge. They took a vote and it was 3-1 for the bridge, even though not everyone supported it strongly.
Regarding the massing revisions; Bennion said he was pleasantly surprised by the additional 3-foot setback and also noted they didn’t have to take a floor off the north part of the building: “The building has come a long way and it’s gotten to a point where I don’t have major problems with it.” Daniel Skaggs also said he was happy with the building’s evolution: “It’s come a long way.”
Colors: Todd Bronk thought the extensive field of green on the back could be reduced. Bennion said, “That’s kind of Kermit the Frog green and I don’t think it’s going to age very well. … It’s an extremely green statement to neighbors who live so close.”
They recommended various tweaks along the streetscape. McNamara thought switching between colored concrete and regular concrete seemed jarring. Bronk, who like McNamara has landscape-architect background, thought a pattern change could set up a nice rhythm.
WHAT’S NEXT: Planner Michael Dorcy is continuing to work on reviews of the project, so if you have something to say, you can still e-mail him – firstname.lastname@example.org. The official project page on the city website is here.