The once-and-future Golden Tee Apartments site, above the northwest side of the West Seattle Golf Course, was the first of two projects getting their first Southwest Design Review Board look tonight. After the review before a full gallery, the board voted to allow the project to move on from the Early Design Guidance phase of the project, which mostly looks at big-picture issues such as building size, shape, and placement on site.
It wasn’t a slam-dunk vote, though – the board almost deadlocked, but talked through concerns. Biggest one: “I want to know that they’re doing the right thing between the buildings,” said board chair Don Caffrey. He was referring to this 7-story project and the 5-story condominiums next door, where most of those commenting during the meeting said they live (that building is partly visible in the photo below):
We first reported last December that redevelopment was proposed for the site, at 3201-3211 SW Avalon Way.
Present tonight from the board along with chair Caffrey were members John Cheng, Matt Hutchins, and Scott Rosenstock, along with the project’s assigned city planner Abby Weber. Here’s how the review unfolded:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Steve Fischer from NK Architects led the presentation of the massing options for the 150 apartments (with 85 offstreet-parking spaces) proposed for the site, which he described as “surrounded by streets.” See the design packet here.
He said the new development also will be called Golden Tee, at the wishes of the longtime owner, to honor the site’s history and “a love for golf.” The design also is envisioned to include something “golden” – some metal siding, some wood siding, Fischer added. He explained that the MR-zoned site is eligible for bonuses that would allow it to go up to 75′ but they are not planning to go for the HALA-enabled 85′ height (assuming Mandatory Housing Affordability wins City Council approval).
Access to the site will be “only off Genesee,” said Fischer. It will be a “hammerhead” configuration that also utilizes what is now an unimproved section of right-of-way that would be 31st SW. The curb cut along Avalon will be removed and replaced with “curbside public parking, planting strip, street trees, and a sidewalk.” Fischer suggested the trees would muffle some of the noise from Avalon. The overhead power lines at the location require a 15′ setback per Seattle City Light. The site has a 20-25-foot grade change “delta,” as he described it.
He quickly showed the three massing options; the project team’s preferred is the third one, dubbed a “hybrid courtyard.” Landscape architect Karen Kiest also showed her concepts, including potential amenity spaces, carrying some of the golf theme. The courtyard will be more green and light-filled “than even the (packet) images suggest,” and the roof – still evolving, Kiest said – would have “killer” views.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Hutchins wondered what level the courtyard would be on. “It’s about five feet above the (entry) hammerhead level,” replied Kiest. Fischer added that they hope to talk with Seattle Parks about access to a path along the putting green on the adjacent golf course. Hutchins then asked Fischer to elaborate on the plan for the prominent Genesee/Avalon corner. Fischer replied that Option 2 has more of a “gateway” treatment than the other two, but otherwise they haven’t looked closely at the corner. Rosenstock asked for more details on the terraces Fischer had mentioned. Reply: They’re private but don’t have access to the street. Rosenstock then wondered about the plan for some space that seems open to the public. It’s early in the design, but the land would be “sculpted,” Kiest said, up to 30″ high. “It’s a transition zone,” added Fischer. Cheng also wondered about the walls shown near the corner. They’ll be around the height of the garage – 10, 11 feet – Fischer said. Another question led him to elaborate on setbacks, and he said that all the options show the building “straight down from about 42 feet.” Caffrey asked, “What’s your big idea – what’s the guiding motivation?” Fischer’s reply: The property owner would say golf, even though not everyone who moves in will be a golfer.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Dale, an owner at Luna Court next door, said he had written planner Weber a letter about what a great place to live his building is – from security to parking. He voiced concern about the building’s parking plan, certain it will leave some residents without spaces. Next speaker noted that most buildings in the area are 4 to 5, “and here you are proposing a 7-story building, that’s going to block a lot of views.” As condo owners, she said, their homes represent most of their investment, and she pleaded with them not to block their views. Third person noted that the mention of street parking in front of the building didn’t seem likely because the upcoming repaving/rechannelization project would be removing street parking as well as the center lane. Fourth person said she wanted to recognize some of the “nice things” the building would do, such as the courtyard and the removal of curb cuts, and the wood/metal that would “warm up” the exterior. She said she too is an owner at Luna Court. She suggested that the space between the two buildings could be widened up “so you’re not looking in each other’s windows.” Next, a resident at 3202 SW Avalon Way – across the street – said he had only one question: The Sound Transit light rail station is supposed to be right there, and he wonders how this can be bulit with that station due to go in. He expects that eminent domain will take his condo. Fischer said the light-rail plan is not determined and so they are carrying this forward.
Next person warned about the noise on Avalon Way. She was followed by a resident who said he too lives at Luna Court next door and can’t tell how the three options would affect the views next door. He said going “as low as possible” would be more “nice” than “wiping out everybody’s view.” Following him, another Luna Court resident who said he too was sad about losing his view but “that’s life in the city” – what concerned him more was “gain(ing) a view into someone’s living room.” Could there be a tree buffer? That, Caffrey pointed out, would be a discussion for the second phase of Design Review. The next speaker also is a Luna Court (69 units, she said) resident and urged them to reconsider the effect this project would have on that building, “the effects you are having on our investment. … The people (in her building) will never, ever see the sunlight.” Caffrey said that while they do consider how buildings interact, the city zoning code doesn’t cover that. In response to the next person with a question/comment, the architects said no street vacation is proposed/required for their plan for 31st SW. The next person begged them to “keep the building low,” saying she had just bought into Luna Court next door back in January. After her, “when will we know the height” of this project? Weber said that this is the first review of the project and it is “very, very early on in the process.” Another question/comment: Could they “dig deeper” and add more parking? Plus, a concern about security issues potentially posed by the courtyard.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Hutchins said #3 was his preferred option. The edge along Genesee is a concern. Rosenstock noted that while there’s a lot of consideration for other sides of the building, the side facing Luna Court indeed could stand some consideration for them. That aside, even the preferred option didn’t seem to have much articulation, he said. And he also voiced concern about safety and security. Cheng singled out a “blank wall” along 31st and corner treatment, as well as seconding the security concerns posed by the layout. Some sort of screening might address the blank wall, board members agreed
Caffrey confirmed consensus around Option #3 as well as support for stepping back the building on the golf course side to “ease the transition” to the neighboring building. So what can they really do about that “adjacency” issue? he went on to say. Doesn’t the current Golden Tee block some views? Rosenstock asked. Caffrey said he had revisited the site before tonight’s meeting and basically – no. Board members thought some more pullback would be possible – “we think they could do more to work with the transition between the two buildings,” Caffrey summarized it. They’d like to see more information to know whether the project team has thoroughly explored that already.
Regarding security, they want to see more about how lighting and landscaping will affect that at street level, as well as how it might be affected by the size and shape of the courtyard. Safety: They want to be satisfied that’ll be addressed for people getting in and out of the Genesee entry.
Caffrey and Rosenstock initially didn’t support advancing the project – setting up a deadlock with Hutchins and Cheng – but after some discussion, they decided the additional information they want can be provided in the process’s next phase.
With tonight’s EDG approval, the project will have at least one more Design Review Board meeting, date TBA – we’ll publish an update as soon as we see it appear on the schedule, which is usually at least a few weeks before formal notice is sent. Meantime, if you have comments, you can send them to planner Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org