West Seattle development: 3824 California SW finished with Design Review after 4th meeting

(Renderings by Johnston Architects)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The project proposed for the former Charlestown Café site at 3824 California SW went before the Southwest Design Review Board for the fourth time tonight. Board members agreed to allow it to advance out of the process, provided several conditions were met – mostly fine-tuning.

The project now includes 27 units in six three-story buildings, punctuated by courtyards, with 26 parking spaces on the east side of the site. (You can see the full “design packet” here.)

As the two-hour meeting began, Megan McKay of Johnston Architects reviewed changes to the project since last time around, including removal of a live-work unit, and revisions in landscaping and street-tree plans (they’re asking for a “departure” to maintain the existing street-tree zone along California, and they’re planning to add trees along Bradford, on the project’s south side).

Landscape architect Karen Kiest said the site will include a “lot of magnolias,” and the center courtyard having a water feature, large “harvest table,” and stone slabs to distinguish it from the streetscape. The development will have bike parking at three locations on the block, she added.

McKay showed the ground floor of the live-works will be focused on retail/commercial, while the ground floor of the all-residential units on the east side will have living rooms; second floor will be living room for live-works, bedrooms for residentials; third floors will be “master suites.” They’ve minimized the size of the residential units’ rooftop decks so they won’t be as “visually intrusive.” Entry doors will be “fir, for the warmth of wood,” and there will be brick trim too, especially on the units wrapping around the piazza/courtyard space.

Businesses along California Avenue will each have their own sign.

In response to a question from the board, Kiest explained the screening plants that will be around the common areas housing trash/recycling bins and other utility-type facilities.

PUBLIC COMMENT: Abdy Farid, long active in land-use and neighborhood issues locally, said that he “really likes the design” after some initial concerns about whether live-work would truly be suited to this area.

Another commenter who says she lives across the alley from the property said she wanted to be certain that privacy concerns had been responded to. The architects said they had tried to keep the windows on the east side of the residential units as small as possible, but a few were a bit larger for “livability” issues. They also pointed out the trees that will ultimately serve as screening. The resident also expressed concern about the penthouses on the buildings being too close to the neighborhood east of the project; architects noted that the stairwells on the southernmost and northernmost penthouses have windows, but the other four do not. (She also asked if there’s a start time for the project, for demolition and construction, but the board explained, as did DPD planner Beth Hartwick, that those dates are not part of this process and, once permits are in hand, the developer doesn’t even have to notify DPD.)

A third speaker wondered about potential changes in the commercial spaces’ configuration; and a fourth wondered about the alley sloping that will result from the project; DPD’s Hartwick offered to work with him to make contact with SDOT to be sure the plans address his concern.

BOARD DELIBERATION: Daniel Skaggs said he had some disappointment with the layout. Matt Zinski said he’s not happy to see cement-board siding.

Todd Bronk said he’s concerned overall with safety/security and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles in part of the courtyard that’s only 10′ wide – he’d like to see it wider. He said he appreciates the palette but also has concerns about the cement-board siding.

T. Frick McNamara‘s concerns included a “missed opportunity” to use a grade change to “tuck the parking underneath” and she’d like to see a different material used for the parking area, more “human scale” since that will be the first thing residents see when they come home. Bronk wonders about the amount of parking on the site – how much will be used for the live-works, how much for the residentials.

As they planned the guidance to give the developer, they again mentioned taking care to ensure the common spaces all work for the project and its residents. But aside from some fine points, board members pronounced themselves “very happy” with how the live-work units had turned out, in particular.

They also called for some differentiation in the materials and colors on the east side of the townhouses, to help make the transition between the project and the neighborhood behind it. The view from the west, into the “piazza,” also could stand some differentiation, said Zinski, since that would be a “key view” into the project, and currently looks toward the “cement board” on a few of the townhouses. Landscape architect Kiest said she had clearly heard “bigger trees” for the east side, too.

Hartwick was asked to run through the conditions she had heard, since she told the board she thought the project could advance with a clear list of conditions:

-Activate the 10’ courtyard space so it’s usable (pavement, lighting)
-Lighting on the 6 main corners of the buildings, and the piazza
-No asphalt in the alley parking
-Less cement board, add other materials such as wood siding on the east side
-Where there’s concrete, vary the finish – “light sandblast” for example, not just “raw concrete”
-Robust landscaping from the start, especially on the alley, not starting with “1-gallon” plants

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The board’s recommendations will be finalized in a report from Hartwick, probably within a few weeks. The project is continuing through the permit phase; we will be checking with the developer, Intracorp, to see what timetable it plans for construction.

27 Replies to "West Seattle development: 3824 California SW finished with Design Review after 4th meeting"

  • Shawn M November 20, 2014 (10:07 pm)

    Go figure another box, no character, more peaple, with roads plugged up already with the rapid rise bus stops, and bike lanes! Have to say the Charleston was a better landmark with great food!

  • morgan November 21, 2014 (6:31 am)

    Looks great. Well done

  • lux November 21, 2014 (7:19 am)

    Looks good to me. Keep them under $2600 a month and I’ll snag one.

  • Glenn November 21, 2014 (7:23 am)

    I agree that it looks nice. I wouldn’t mind living there.

  • JayDee November 21, 2014 (8:22 am)

    Not being fluent in developer jargon, what distinguishes a “live/work” from an apartment or a townhouse?

    • WSB November 21, 2014 (8:30 am)

      You’re supposed to have some kind of business on the first floor. In the Admiral area, examples include the building with Caffe Fiore and Mind Unwind in the 2200 block of California (both of which actually have two floors of business). They are a little more prevalent the further south you go on California – in Morgan Junction, California just north of the Bridge, has live-works with businesses including our longtime sponsor Northwest Insurance Group, plus Pink Gorilla Games, and others’ names are escaping me at the moment. I honestly don’t know, though, how the “live” part works out – whether it becomes auxiliary space for the business or if they really do have a business owner or renter living upstairs or … if anyone lurking here in the comments can share an example (without violating privacy), I’d be interested to know – One thing said last night is that ideally these become “residential over retail,” which of course is not uncommon in older construction (think of the buildings with Easy Street and Cupcake Royale in The Junction, although I think *some* of that is office space) … TR

  • Jeff November 21, 2014 (8:35 am)

    I like it! Great use of the space since restaurant use of such a large parcel seems to have become non-viable. I also really appreciate that they didn’t make California Ave appear to be 300 feet wide in their renderings like so many of these projects do.

    • WSB November 21, 2014 (8:39 am)

      I really should have included some backstory on this … maybe it’s a separate story. There have been other development proposals that didn’t go this far, including a similar “one 1-story retail building on the site” proposal for Petco (long before they moved into the Capco building in The Junction) that never made it out of Design Review.

  • Rick November 21, 2014 (8:48 am)

    Boxtown USA

  • John November 21, 2014 (10:20 am)

    Keen perception Rick.

    What would you suggest?

  • Rick November 21, 2014 (10:29 am)

    John,I follow your comments so… more boxes.

  • wetone November 21, 2014 (10:49 am)

    Looks good all it needs now is parking. 27 units 26 parking spots. How many bedrooms in each unit ? They should be required 1 parking spot per bedroom min. in developments such as this, especially where they have live/work units. Impacts to area neighborhoods without such requirement will be huge as there is little parking available now in evening hours let alone increased traffic. People need to really start paying attention to what the city is allowing along California ave. and through out W/S build up. It’s just starting, there are 100’s of lots from North Admiral past Morgan street that will be built up. The city has done zero to slow anything down as builders are smarter and just find ways around. People think traffic is bad now just wait a couple more years it will be a parking lot in/out and around W/S. I’m glad they got their priority’s right tough putting in lots of bike parking, do people really leave their high dollar bikes outside at night or day around here ? or is this for daytime user’s talking a rest stop ? I would think people that live there would be using their bikes for commuting, from requirements city has allowed (parking) for new builds in Seattle. Hopefully it will be used as much as our new bike parking in the junction that was so important. 10 years from now W/S will be a very different area with a Manhattan attitude/lifestyle/$$$. Might be fine for the people moving here, not so for those that do.

  • Rick November 21, 2014 (11:20 am)

    John- more boxes. Keep your contractors license current.

  • debra November 21, 2014 (11:58 am)

    wetone you are spot on…for many of us we can’t find parking on our block let alone in front of our homes, the density that has developed does not blend in with the community which was part of the urban village planning
    John I don’t understand your consistant snippy comments…everyone’s perspective is as valid as your comments even if I dont agree with them I believe you have a right to voice them…somehow you missed that lesson in manners

  • Rick November 21, 2014 (12:14 pm)

    Thank you Debra. I think I love you. Please don’t mention it to wife person.

  • rg November 21, 2014 (1:52 pm)

    I like this plan better then most that have been popping up in the area (avolon :( .) I agree that there should be at least 1.5 spots/unit. Lux is already willing to pay $2600, might as well bump it up to three and improve the quality of convenience.

  • Diane November 21, 2014 (2:57 pm)

    thank you Debra; agree

  • John November 21, 2014 (7:03 pm)

    Rick, Debra, Diane,..
    If you follow my comments you see that I like all sorts of architecture. I celebrate and love the vast array of single family styles in West Seattle. I believe that there is room for all and with our neighborhoods so overwhelmingly developed with mixed styles the concerns for “a box on every corner” are virtually nil. The trendy “Mad Men” cheap box style will ebb just as the McMansion, fake Craftsman and neo-Cottage styles. Good architectural examples of all styles will retain their demand and continue to delight those lucky enough to inhabit them.

    I should not respond to Rick’s snippy “Boxtown USA.” with my equally snippy “Keen perception Rick”.

    But, I truly appreciate when people post positive suggestions in their criticism of projects. That is why I include, “what would you suggest?” I feel there is too much meanness and denigration in these discussions.

    Debra’s comments about parking are so well worn, but all of these anecdotal reports of 100% street parking have been proven false by actual studies. I would Like her to be more specific of the blocks she feels are at parking capacity.

    I would also engage Debra to see if she or her neighbors are using their legal off-street parking & garages and how they are working to solve the problem that was not and is not simply caused by recent development.

    I preach due diligence and responsibility for those purchasing property.
    If you buy in or in the shadow of a commercial/multi-family zone, expect it to be built out as zoning allows. Expect that to be the trade-off for incredible walking convenience to restaurants, shops and services heretofore unheard of in the traditional West Seattle we reminisce over.

    Finally, since being re-allowed to participate in this forum, I try to keep my posts factual.

  • wetone November 21, 2014 (8:53 pm)

    John what parking studies are you referring to ? are they from a non bias outside source or the city and developers ? Have you personally gone and walked around this area in the evening hours to see how many extra parking spots are available ? Your question on are people using their off street parking has no relevance. Areas were never designed for the population increases of 2 to 10+x of original neighborhood block. If one does have parking accessed from street (front of home) most likely will be useless as streets here are to narrow making ingress/egress very tricky if not impossible when street parking is full ; )

  • KM November 21, 2014 (8:54 pm)

    One spot per bedroom seems like an odd way to determine parking, even with mixed use. Not everyone who occupies a bedroom drives, and owning multiple cars isn’t necessary for many households.

    Parking and development is a huge, hot issue right now–we obviously need some sort of solution (and adequate transportation). I think location to transit and city center and type of property should carry more weight than number of bedrooms.

  • AR November 21, 2014 (9:35 pm)

    Does anyone know who designed the buildings across the street from the Delridge branch library? I took a screenshot from Google Maps so the proportions are a bit squashed down: http://imgur.com/GqB4OS5

    Could something like this address the box complaints? Natural materials, brick and mortar business below a house-like structure. I personally would feel like I lived in an office building if it were all cement and not much differentiation between business and home parts of the structure, but I think the buildings in my link above are attractive and livable. Also, to see them in person, they blend pretty well with the houses next door and up on the ridge behind.

    Sorry if this is too far off topic, but I wanted to suggest an alternative for John.

  • John November 22, 2014 (12:10 am)

    Great comment AR.
    I too, have enjoyed these buildings, especially the one to the north with nicely detailed upstairs. I like the brick veneer and detail at street level for all three.

    I was surprised to discover they are luxury two and three bedroom townhome apartments with 1 designated parking space and free on-street parking. http://www.thechristiansondevelopment.com/

    I am referring to parking studies by the city.
    I do not have any facts that the studies are biased.
    Complaining residents, sometimes refuse to believe the factual and public reports and then suggest the monitoring time was cherry-picked.
    No one or group that I am aware of (Alki, Morgan Junction and Avalon come to mind) has provided contradictory actual studies. I would think that those still believing their streets are at 100% could easily shoot a time lapse to prove their point.
    Another fact that supports the veracity of the city’s parking studies is that they do have studies showing 100% in some hotly contested and congested neighborhoods.

    And yes, sometimes after meetings where we are hearing neighbors bitterly complaining about parking, I cruise those very streets on the way home and I see available parking.

    The point more often being made now about utilizing planned and developed off street parking is in fact extremely relevant, as more people fill these designated spaces with other things and expect to park on the street in front of their homes.

    And wetone, there are specific codes that address the very issues of access from street (though the West Seattle street grid was designed with mostly alley parking).
    I believe it is illegal to park within five? feet of the outside edges of the driveway apron. Homeowners are allowed to paint this area yellow on both sides and have cars parked over or impeding their access ticketed and towed. Surprisingly to me, a homeowner is also allowed to park parallel in this space.
    If most people with cars kept them off of the streets in the spaces designed for them, it would make a remarkable difference and improve all our lives.

  • wetone November 22, 2014 (9:22 am)

    John sounds like you either work for the city or developers. All one has to do is walk around the neighborhoods in the evening when people are home to see parking issues, not middle of day like city does. Your answers laughable at best. Maybe if you started with a clean slate or live in a perfect world your perfect answers might pertain, not so in real world, add the old infrastructure with zero improvements = very bad ; ) nuff said

  • John November 22, 2014 (10:08 am)

    wetone, I respond with facts.

    You respond with false personal charges. I do not work for the city nor do I work for any developer as you suggest.

    The one factual claim you make is false.
    Parking studies are not done only during the middle of the day, but throughout the day and into the evening.

    I am still waiting for wetone being more specific than his vague “walk around neighborhoods” challenge. What neighborhoods and what streets are at 100%? I’ll walk them whenever and wherever wetone suggests?

    When I cite facts about people not using the designated spaces for parking and moving cars onto the street, wetone says “no relevance”?


  • Debra November 22, 2014 (3:55 pm)

    John do u own a home in west seattle, if so does it bump up
    To all this density

  • WS Since 66 November 22, 2014 (6:55 pm)

    Cry me a frickin river people. Why don’t we just put up a booth at the bridge and who ever doesn’t have proper ID that shows a WS address must stay out!! I’ve been here since 1966 and get tired of the whining and crying about wanting the “old West Seattle” back. The Duwamish tribe can say the same thing. If you don’t like it then move. There are lots of small towns around the Metro Seattle area which would be perfect for those who desire to live in a small town. There is absolutely nothing stopping you. JHC!

  • Admiral Rob November 25, 2014 (8:02 am)

    i just want pancakes…

Sorry, comment time is over.