Design Review report: 4532 42nd SW advances to next stage, tree in tow

A tree played a big role in the Southwest Design Review Board‘s latest look at mixed-use Junction project 4532 42nd SW.

(From the project “packet,” a rendering of building massing if the tree were kept)
The meeting was a second round of Early Design Guidance for the newest proposal for the site right behind Capco Plaza – 6-stories, ~75 apartments, 3,813 sq.ft. of commercial space, offstreet parking for ~63 vehicles (though this is in an area where projects can be built without any parking because of the proximity of “frequent transit”).

This location was approved for a different project under different ownership back in 2009.

That stalled until West Seattleites Mark and Susan Braseth bought it for $3.3 million this past February and brought forward the new proposal. A big old house, once a hospital, was demolished on part of the site in 2008, north of a structure that will be torn down to make way for the project but has in the meantime served as construction offices for Junction 47 nearby.

Thursday night’s meeting ran more than two hours – theoretically the 6:30 pm review on Design Review Board nights is supposed to end by 8, regardless of whether a second review follows – and the tree was the big issue.

When the project came before the board for its first EDG meeting last July (see the city’s official report here), the board told the project team they wanted to see options preserving the tree – a Western red cedar on the northeast corner of the site – but since then, the developer and architect said, they had found via consulting with multiple arborists that the tree does not meet the standard for being an “exceptional” tree; their reports show its trunk diameter at midpoint is 29.7 inches, while 30 is the baseline for the city’s definition. They also said the tree would not survive if the parcel north of this site, which has different ownership, were ever developed.

With that, NK Architects presented a treeless option. The project team says saving the tree would have effects including 16 fewer parking spaces, and that point brought out local businesspeople to say that’s vital to The Junction – restaurateur Dave Montoure and real-estate executive Mike Gain both spoke to that point, while two other local businesspeople, Jack Miller and Rob Wunder, spoke to the Braseths’ character and the importance of local ownership.

But the meeting was about the design. Board member T. Frick McNamara said that it’s within the board’s rights to consider the tree status regardless of whether it’s exceptional or not.

Another issue that emerged: The alleys along this site, to the south and east, were brought up by commenters included René Commons from the Junction Neighborhood Organization. The project’s ingress/egress has to be considered in the context of the alley behind Capco Plaza/QFC, she said, as that one already is challenged. Other neighbors voiced concern about a trash problem in the alley that they link to Oregon 42 to the north. Alley parking access is a point of concern too.

In the end, the board decided to let the project proceed to the next phase of Design Review – provided the tree stays. That conditional approval means they can apply for a master use permit but will have to go through at least one more meeting with the SWDRB, in the “Recommendations” phase. A date for that will be set later.

In the meantime, you can comment on the project by e-mailing planner Katy – be sure you refer to project #3019962.

NEXT UP FOR THE SOUTHWEST DESIGN REVIEW BOARD: 6:30 pm November 19th, 4106 Delridge Way SW, “a five-story structure containing 3,700 sq. ft. of retail at ground level and 36 residential units above in an environmentally critical area (with) parking for 36 vehicles” – details and docs here.

17 Replies to "Design Review report: 4532 42nd SW advances to next stage, tree in tow"

  • The Truth November 9, 2015 (2:07 am)

    So wait, even though the tree is not within the baseline of “exceptional” they are going to make them keep it? At the expense of 16 few parking spaces in our commercial core of WS??? For a tree that will die when ( not if) the property next to it is developed??? Where is the common sense here?

  • tree hugger November 9, 2015 (8:39 am)

    Just another example of how effective Seattle’s tree lobby has been. Common sense be damned.
    The tortured design shown to accommodate one tree will haunt that building forever. Even if the tree survives, the building will always be compromised in space, layout, durability, cost, maintenance and energy use because of Seattle tree codes’ overreach of private property.
    Seattle has it all wrong regarding tree codes. If tree loving activists actually had to bear the burden of some of their demands on others, they might take a more balanced view. Tree rules are one of the few areas where the codes have dramatically changed over the last twenty years. As property owners, we are no longer able to manage our own trees. Taking care of trees in residential areas is expensive beyond belief. Unbelievably, it has gotten to the point that we are not allowed to remove even dead and dying trees.
    The city actively lobbies for reducing private property tree rights by accurately pointing out the benefits for all, provided by our trees. Fine, if tree owners are providing a service for the community, they should be compensated.
    How about the city do the tree maintenance?
    That’s rhetorical as the City of Seattle has an overwhelming backlog of tree maintenance with recent reports stating how private property trees are in good health and maintenance, while the City’s trees are predominantly unhealthy, diseased, dying or dead due to lack of maintenance.
    Common sense is if our homeowner tree stock is healthy and providing benefits for all, why not compensate those tree owners providing benefits?

  • LOL November 9, 2015 (9:06 am)

    Tree higher, thank you for calling out the nefarious Tree Libby! Those jerks.

  • West Seattle Don November 9, 2015 (9:38 am)

    Why? They kept the trees on Alaska at LA Fitness but allowed the trees on the south side to be cut down at Whole Foods. Did they forget to install the plywood protectors?

  • old timer November 9, 2015 (12:14 pm)

    It’s amazing the power these unelected semi-bureaucrats have seized.
    Even though the “tree code” is not applicable, they will impose it anyhow.
    So now, the tree will be hidden behind the bulk of the design compromised building until it is killed by the development of the lot to the north.
    Way to go power-lusters.
    Yeah, I know, – “All the hours we selflessly devoted to the maintenance of our neighborhoods, blah, blah, blah.”
    It still does not make your decisions correct.

  • Diane November 9, 2015 (12:14 pm)

    Deb Barker also provided detailed commentary

  • Diane November 9, 2015 (12:16 pm)

    “When the project came before the board for its first EDG meeting last July (see the city’s official report here)”
    there’s no link here

  • Diane November 9, 2015 (12:27 pm)

    to all the tree naysayers here; if you had attended the meeting to hear the long detailed discussion of why the tree may remain, or if there were more detailed description of what actually happened at this much longer than usual meeting, you might think differently
    there was no “tree lobby” at the meeting; and it’s offensive to hear attacks of our all volunteer design board, who were following the rules, when you likely were not even at the meeting to hear what really happened
    I was there for the entire discussion, til the very end; the brilliant DRB member T. Frick McNamara did her homework prior to the meeting, and also met with arborists; she explained at length, several times, while citing 5 DRB guidelines, as to why saving the tree meets DRB criteria; I wish there was video of her arguments
    and that IS the job (as unpaid volunteers btw) of the Design Review Board, to follow the DRB guidelines; T provided more than ample evidence that this tree is “significant”, even if it were to miss the mark of .3 inches as “exceptional” by the developer-hired-arborists; it was obvious by the public audience that the developer enlisted support from several local biz owners, for taking down the tree
    also, as mentioned in this story; the board had asked the project team at the 1st EDG to come back with options that included the tree; the team did not do that; the team did not follow the rules
    In all the years I’ve attended DRB meetings, a controversial tree is usually deemed “exceptional” or not by the city arborist; not arborists hired by the team; that’s a bit like tobacco companies paying for studies to prove tobacco is harmless
    just a few years ago, there was a project on Delridge (DESC) that was forced to keep the tree, very similar to this, even though most of the neighbors did not care about the tree; the city arborist deemed it exceptional; in that project, they created a lovely garden plaza around the tree; what a concept; do you really want WS to turn into massive walls of buildings with no trees and no spaces for human beings to gather outdoors?
    If you ever attended one of these meetings, you’d often see in the audience, not only the developer, and architect team, but also the developer’s lawyer; and often, like this meeting, the audience packed with supporters of the developer; I’ve been in way too many DRB meetings where the board pretty much allowed whatever the developer wanted (the board is supposed follow the rules, but gotta say, when most design review board members are architects, and their livelihood is often dependent on developers, it can often seem a conflict of interest to have DRB’s advising on the fate of our neighborhoods); at this meeting, it was fantastic to see some backbone; and T was absolutely valiant in presenting the case for the tree and open space for the benefit of our community; she should be applauded, not attacked; she was doing her job
    also, design review is about design; it’s not supposed to be about parking, or profit; the one big downside of this meeting; there was way too much public comment allowed that had nothing to do with design (arguments about the property next to this and whether that owner may sell soon or not; Mike Gain announcing how much he pays–$33,000—for parking for his office; other biz owners commiserating about loss of parking that impacts their shoppers; lots of commentary about the wonderful developer family, etc); all that non-design-related commentary was allowed to go on and on and on, outside the parameter of design review guidelines, and way beyond the usual 2 mins; was that because it was commentary from several local powerful biz leaders??? I’ve seen neighbors repeatedly shut down in DRB meetings if they dare to talk about parking; that part of the meeting was highly biased and unfair; it was certainly entertaining and informative for me, but it was against the rules
    I came into this meeting having done no homework on this particular project, and expected the meeting to be rather boring as usual; wowee, it was NOT boring; and I learned a lot
    if you care at all about development in WS, highly recommend showing up at DRB meetings, to learn how the process works, and have your say; instead of just spewing attacks at “tree activists” and DRB members from the comfort of your electronic device (and usually hiding behind anonymous names); I’ve been attending these meetings about 8 yrs, and every time, I learn something new

  • Northwest November 9, 2015 (1:58 pm)

    Having not attended the meeting I hope to reach out to the owner of this up and coming apartment complex. If the complex much like many others these days has a no smoking policy onsite which includes outside like Oregon 42 apartments to the north just half a block away please provide onsite a closed canister or receptacle of some kind for smokers to responsibly dispose of their cigarette butts. I have reached out to management at Oregon 42 and they have told me “it’s not our problem” yet within their frontage landscape with a littler research a slick looking closed canister receptacle could be easily installed and made available to tenants who smoke and choose to use it. I challenge the local developer to do the responsible thing in his and our community and have one installed properly maintained onsite.

  • Barb November 9, 2015 (2:18 pm)

    I don’t understand how a tree that isn’t significant can bring a project to a halt. This makes no sense to me. If the builder is meeting all building codes, then they should be allowed to proceed without the tree. Is there a hidden agenda?

  • Northwest November 9, 2015 (2:59 pm)

    I stand corrected, thankfully. Just made my second follow up phone call to Oregon 42 ,now two months since I spoke with another contact there, and they are working on solutions to decrease cigarette butt litter, good news for the community and even better news for Puget Sound where they eventually go down our storm drains.

  • dsa November 9, 2015 (4:33 pm)

    There were trees slated for removal on another project long ago that were saved. Those trees were expected to die due to the project and building. They were allowed to stay, they were actually in the planting strip anyway and not really in anyone’s way. Where? check the Bartell’s side of Metropolitan Market in Admiral.

  • chemist November 9, 2015 (5:25 pm)

    Northwest, not providing cigarette butt receptacles is designed to encourage not smoking (for health) and attract a type of resident that lives a smoke-free/vape lifestyle.
    Yes, it only takes a few word changes from the standard “no parking needed” statement to create a “no butt disposal needed” statement.

  • joe November 9, 2015 (5:49 pm)

    Let’s face it, no one in development cares. “Develop”, cash in, move on. I don’t live here.

  • Northwest November 9, 2015 (6:01 pm)

    I am not here to debate smoking or not the fact is and I see a lot of cigarette litter daily and have over the years it’s significant enough that I am doing what I am able to in order to lessen it. I have also personally installed receptacles where there were none previously and where people smoke an seen a significant change in people’s behavior regarding litter.

  • Lol November 9, 2015 (6:05 pm)

    Yes Diane!!’l You know so much better than those with local roots here who have invested time money family and community close to 100 years….let’s wait till they sell it to anothrt developer who does minipods because they can’t get it to pencil.

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