Design Review Doubleheader, report #1: 1606 California SW gets board’s final OK

Here’s our first of two reports from last night’s Southwest Design Review Board meeting, the shorter one because this project had little critique and little controversy. The three-story, 15-unit apartment building proposed for 1606 California SW in North Admiral won SWDRB approval in the minimum number of review meetings – two – though they were two years apart.


Board chair Todd Bronk and members Don Caffrey, Alexandra Moravec, and Matt Zinski voted unanimously to give their final blessing. On hand for the city Department of Construction and Inspections (formerly Planning and Development) was the project’s assigned planner Katy Haima.

Here’s the design “packet” by Roger Newell Architects, whose Neal Thompson led the presentation, saying the project has a “great site” in terms of its view: Every living space will have a corner window. He said the project hadn’t been idle since its last review in 2014, since they had been working with the city “through four correction cycles” and changing the design to respond to feedback from the preview review.

The exterior will include stucco, paneling, wood soffits, and glass rails. The driveway into the garage (the plan includes 21 offstreet parking spaces) will have vertical planking along its sides, for “texture.”

The lone public commenter was former SWDRB chair Deb Barker, who recalled that she voiced concern about a section of “blank wall” back at the 2014 meeting – specifically the west side of the project, facing California – and it’s still there. She’s hoping for something honoring the “elegant nature of the project.” She said she’s “pleased with .. the palette and the materials.” And she “really, really like(s) the tower” on the building.

That same concern was voiced by board chair Bronk when members deliberated before voting. He and Caffrey both voiced support of the materials chosen. Caffrey also wanted to be sure sightlines for cars and pedestrians were considered in term the ramp to the garage. Bronk added his concern about “stacking” of cars in the alley. Moravec expressed appreciation for some of the landscaping along the ramp. Bronk, a landscape architect, did have a critique of the planned trees, thinking some evergreens would be called for, especially along the “blank wall” section on the building’s west side. Zinski said that with “a lot of corners exposed” on the building, it would be important to ensure the wood siding fit together well. He also said during deliberation that “those stairs [in the tower] had better be really nice if we’re going to see them.” Bronk focused on other details such as trellising shielding the trash area and also lighting being shielded on the alley side. Overall, he called the design “a great package.”

If you have feedback on the project, there’s still time, even if you missed the meeting – e-mail comments to the planner at

Our report on last night’s second review, the board’s third look at 4532 42nd SW, will be published later today.

2 Replies to "Design Review Doubleheader, report #1: 1606 California SW gets board's final OK"

  • Leaden April 22, 2016 (10:26 am)

    I always wonder what the design would be like without the overlay of these review boards and the manner they game, color and shade the whole design process.

    Roger Newell Architects is a talented and respected firm.  

    It would have been wonderful to allow them to design the building they were hired to design rather than compromise a design to  the predilections of a few board members and retiree activists.

    Artistic design is highly compromised by committee. 

    And design meddling  draws out the process ballooning costs..  The piece states that the for two years the design was being revised to address issues raised by this system.

    This design meddling limits creativity, draws out the process and skyrockets costs.  


  • WS gal April 22, 2016 (9:09 pm)

    Couldn’t agree with you more Leaden! Instead of leaving design to professionals it’s now let’s compromise and make everyone happy- when too many cooks get to tell you how to cook your soup it tastes like crap. We should hold single family homes accountable in the same way…..perhaps people would get that it’s not fair to tell you what 

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