By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
About 17 concerned citizens attended tonight’s Southwest Design Review Board meeting about the proposed apartment complex at 2222 SW Barton.
Architect Justin Kliewer, who is now with Cleave Architecture and Design, presented three different massing (size/shape) options for the complex, which will be situated on what Kliewer called a “tricky” triangular parcel of 15,500 square-feet, on a steep grade, currently home to a small apartment building. The area is a bit of a mix, with Westwood Village within a stone’s throw, and single-family houses to the east and south.
The idea of 70 to 80 units shoe-horned into the space was not warmly received by those present.
“I can hardly believe they can squeeze in 80 units, it’s absurd, massive, way too big for the site,” said a neighbor named Sebastian, who lives directly uphill from the site. He said it would be visible for eight to 10 blocks and become a “monolithic presence.”
“It’s like squeezing a size eight into a size two shoe,” he said.
The size of the units raised eyebrows as well; you can find that information in the “design packet” published before the meeting. An efficiency could be as small as 280 square feet, a one-bedroom unit 400 square feet, and a two bedroom 500-600 square feet. Deb Barker, a former SWDRB member who frequently participates in public comment on projects, said three-bedroom units could be very useful in the area.
“This is an important site,” Barker said, commending the architect for three creative design possibilities. “It’s important because it’s so visible from Westwood.” She wasn’t alone in expressing need for larger units. Several of the speakers said the area is primarily single-family homes, with families living in them. Efficiencies attract young, transient folks who like to go out. But there’s nowhere to go out in the neighborhood – no bars, restaurants, movie theaters, not even in Westwood Village. Barker said the applicant should study the pedestrian activity in the area as well, and situate the primary entrance away from the single-family homes.
“I’m not seeing efficiencies as the way of this neighborhood – there are lots of families here,” said Amanda Kay Helmick, president of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council. “This area has been ignored by the city for 20 years, and it’s not ready for efficiencies.”
Helmick also pointed out that the site is in the Longfellow Creek watershed, and putting in a massive building without proper drainage needs consideration. Additionally, the sidewalks that would be constructed around the building will lead nowhere, as the sidewalks don’t extend all the way up the hill going east. “It’s going to be weird no matter what you put there,” she said.
Although parking is not in the purview of the review board, numerous comments by email voiced concerns about parking. No off-street parking is planned since the site is on a Rapid Ride route, therefore not required. Craig Shaw, a 27 year-resident on 24th SW, asked the board if there were any other complexes in the area that don’t provide parking. The answer was no.
The review board agreed that concerns about the project included that it’s too high at four stories, too dense, and too massive. Other concerns were that it would be too monolithic for the area, no safe way for people to get dropped off by a vehicle, safety and security, and lighting. The board members gravitated to design option two, but they want it toned down.
Chair Matt Zinski joked that unless they bring in Frank Gehry (the famous architect who designed the EMP) the form needed to be simplified. “We’re concerned about this building being ubiquitous in its height,” he said.
Street improvements and landscaping tying in to the local plantings, a green transition to the single family area, a well-done trash enclosure, and vehicular circulation were other concerns the board had as well.
Although they ultimately agreed to move the project forward to the second and final phase of Design Review, architect Kliewer will have to sharpen his pencil. After hearing from the public, the architect had a better idea of the neighborhood mix, and said he would try to incorporate three-bedroom units into the project.
There will be at least one more meeting for 2222 SW Barton; no date set yet. If you have comments, you can send them to the assigned planner Joshua Johnson – firstname.lastname@example.org – including environmental issues such as traffic and noise, as well as regarding the design.