This Thursday, the Southwest Design Review Board meets again in West Seattle, just one week after its last meeting – a two-week gap is more common, but the recent schedule’s been tousled. We have toplines from the two reviews at last week’s meeting, but first, a quick look at the projects on the agenda this week:
Both meetings on Thursday night (July 23rd) are at the SWDRB’s usual meeting spot, the Senior Center of West Seattle (entrance on Oregon SW just east of California SW); both have public-comment periods. Design packets are not yet posted for the projects (though they are supposed to be by now, this close to the meetings) – check back at the pages we’ve linked to each address above.
Last Thursday (July 16th), we covered the board’s reviews of two projects, in reverse order of how they had been listed on the DPD website, 4532 42nd SW first and then 5414 Delridge Way SW, because of what a DPD rep said was a mix-up involving notices sent by postal mail. Ahead, summaries and results of the two reviews, both of which were for the Early Design Guidance phase, which means the board looked at characteristics such as size and shape, NOT a finished look for either building:
Board members in attendance for both hearings were Matt Zinski as acting chair, T. Frick McNamara, Alexandra Moravec, and the board’s newest appointee, Don Caffrey.
4532 42ND SW
(From the project packet by NK Architects)
Six years after a previous proposal for 4532 42nd SW stalled after city approval, new ownership and a new design are in place, but after raising some major questions/concerns, the board told the project team to come back for a second round of Early Design Guidance.
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Steve Fischer of NK Architects led the meeting; the owners, the Braseth family of West Seattle, arrived at the meeting while the review was in progress because of the city snafu regarding announced start time. Here’s the “design packet” for the project.
The project is close enough to the RapidRide C Line to be considered in a “frequent transit” zone. Other key traits of the site: It’s right behind (north of) Capco Plaza (Altamira Apartments, QFC, Petco). The site has 125′ of frontage on 42nd SW; part of it is vacant after a demolition years ago, and the other part holds a duplex that’s been serving as a construction office for Junction 47 at California/Alaska. Immediately north of this project’s site is a single-family home on what Fischer referred to as an “underdeveloped site,” discussing the requirements for how that is to be treated. The project site itself is a mix of zones and was recently – just after the application for this project – designated P (for pedestrian).
Six trees on the site are designated “significant,” one is exceptional, a western red cedar that has a trunk wider than the 30-inch designation threshold. “It’s a pretty healthy tree,” said Fischer, describing what they would have to do to try to save it – its root ball alone would reduce the amount of buildable underground parking from 70 to 53, he said. Their preferred option would take out the tree, and he wondered aloud about how that would be compensated for. He showed concepts showing a potential courtyard, as well as transparency along the frontage.
BOARD QUESTIONS: McNamara wondered how the building would handle the transition across the alley to the east – a few doors north, for example, Oregon 42 has a courtyard adjacent to that alley. She also wondered if creating an open space from the sidewalk would make it possible to save the big tree, which she expects has a significant effect on the house to the north. Board members also spent some time asking about setbacks.
PUBLIC COMMENTS: Abdy Farid, who owns the house north of the project site, said “it’s going to be there for a while.” He mentioned that the previous owners/applicants had proposed more of a setback, recognizing “the need for (it).” Second speaker was the president of the condominium association across the alley; she says they already have trouble using the alley because of waste receptacles from Oregon 42, and described a traffic mess that includes some QFC customers using a shortcut. Zinski pointed out that the SWDRB does not review traffic concerns and said the city planner could take feedback on that. By the time the public-comment period started, the Braseths had arrived, so they acknowledged hearing the concerns, while city planner Lisa Rutzick said she could help put the neighbors in touch with other city departments. Third comment was from Diane Vincent, who expressed displeasure at the flip of the meetings.
BOARD DISCUSSION: Moravec noted the clash between the interests of adjacent properties and the tree. McNamara said she would have to be further convinced about why they couldn’t keep the tree, given its beauty and environmental benefits. She also talked about the alley being heavily used by pedestrians. Moravec then said she’d like to hear more about how the tree possibly could be saved; McNamara, who has a landscape-architecture background, said she could see more ways it could be dealt with. Zinski then said “While I’m all for trees … we’re in a very dense zone ..” and raised concerns about “trying to manipulate the building” for the sake of the tree. McNamara then talked about the midblock connections that are springing up to the west, in the heart of The Junction, and saying that should be a concern for this block as well.
McNamara pointed out that the design guidelines for the area should guide them on what to prioritize. Moravec said choosing one of the options would help guide them. McNamara said they didn’t have to choose one if they didn’t feel any were meeting the design goals, and that she would like to see more studies showing whether the tree could be saved, and design options with more open space that might achieve that goal. Fischer said that Option 1, which only has open space around the tree, is the only workable option that would achieve that goal – adding more open space to other options, and reducing the amount of development, could give them the right to take out the tree.
Planner Rutzick suggested members make some statements and take votes to get closer to consensus. “The most controversial thing for us is saving the tree,” declared Zinski.
Another point of emphasis: Some sort of setback on the north side of the site.
In the end, the board told the project it needed to return with another try at Early Design Guidance. A date will be set later; if you have comments, on environmental issues (including traffic/parking) as well as design issues, you can send them to Rutzick, email@example.com.
5414 DELRIDGE WAY SW
(From the project packet by NK Architects)
A “simple, small project” in a “little pocket neighborhood” in North Delridge was the second project presented to the board last Thursday night. Members gave their approval for it to move out of the Early Design Guidance phase of Design Review.
They were joined for the review by Tami Garrett, the DPD planner assigned to this project.
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: NK Architects]‘ Steve Fischer also led this project presentation. 7 residential units and 7 parking stalls are planned, along with a “small commercial space”; the units “are rather large,” said Fischer, each three stories with three or four bedrooms. The building is being developed for a business that owner Eric Christianson operates offering mental-health care for youth, Fischer said. (That business is Community Care.)
Here’s the “design packet” published online before the meeting. The parcel has 40 feet of frontage on Delridge and is 120 feet deep, Fischer detailed. Under a separate permit, Christianson is improving the alley all the way to Brandon, after maintaining it for 14 years; parking is accessed from that alley. He’s built three other buildings nearby, separated from this one by one single-family house. The commercial space in this one will be used by the offices of his business, the architect said.
Each unit would have a private rooftop terrace under the preferred design option (#3). The upper stories of the building would step back a bit.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Some concern was voiced about a stretch of “blank facade” that would be visible on parts of the building’s north and south buildings. Fischer was asked to elaborate on the context in the neighborhood; he discussed the auto business that is north of this site, the single-family home to the south (with the same owner’s three other buildings to the south of that), and the mixed-use building with the Delridge Library that’s directly across the street.
PUBLIC COMMENT: There was none.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Caffrey and McNamara both voiced concern about the south facade. Moravec called attention to the fact these would be the first buildings on the block with rooftop decks, an increasingly common feature in new construction. Zinski said the “historical character” is important. Owner Christianson said he hoped to use brick for this building if the cost wasn’t prohibitive, and Zinski said that appealed to him. McNamara talked more about the aesthetics, and Christianson said he had repainted part of an existing building to better harmonize with some of the colors chosen by the DESC Cottage Grove Commons to the south.
Board members talked about the terraces’ usability and setback, and Christianson mentioned a sliver view of the water in the distance to the north. He also said that his other buildings have courtyard common spaces that the residents don’t use, likely out of privacy concerns, leading to the decision to design separate terraces for this project.
Zinski voiced caution that the screening and entrance/exit areas all be well-developed. Caffrey wanted to ensure that the lighting would be tasteful and not glaring.
Owner Christianson said that, listening to more of the board members’ discussion, he might be inclined to have the rooftop decks face north instead of south.
Overall, there were no major critiques; members underscored aspects of the plan that appealed to them, summarizing their priorities: They like the single-mass building, particularly in reference to high-quality materials such as brick; the material can “mitigate the blank facades”; they’d like to see the balconies have abundant open space; they’d like to see a little more of a setback on the south side for more sunlight and air access; the flat-top roof and rooftop gardens are appealing.
A date will be set later for the next (possibly final) review of this project; you can e-mail comments on the design and/or other aspects to planner Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org in the meantime.
—Tracy Record, WSB editor