DEVELOPMENT: 150-apartment project for 3201 SW Avalon Way gets OK to move to 2nd stage of Design Review

(The three ‘massing’ options for 3201 Avalon; project team’s preference, #3, at right, won the SWDRB’s favor too)

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):

(King County Assessor’s Office photo)

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

20 Replies to "DEVELOPMENT: 150-apartment project for 3201 SW Avalon Way gets OK to move to 2nd stage of Design Review"

  • just wondering September 20, 2018 (8:21 pm)


  • pjk September 20, 2018 (8:57 pm)

     My mother lived in the Golden Tee for 17 years until she passed in 2011.  If the only access is off of Genesee, what is the plan for the winter months when Genesee is closed due to snow and ice.  As soon as the first threat of snow/ice the signs were always at the top of Genesee and ready to block off the street.  Having been the primary support for my mother, I had to park many blocks away during winter months to access her apartment.  Also, by the time buses arrive at the corner of Alaska and Fauntleroy they are standing room only so most residents will have a difficult time using public transportation during the morning/evening commute times.   Just my opinions from experience.

    • psps September 20, 2018 (9:48 pm)

      Haven’t you heard?  Nobody is supposed to use or even own a car anymore.  If you had to go there to tend to anything or anyone, you would just walk, take the bus or ride your bike.

    • Pointsgood September 20, 2018 (9:51 pm)

      Steep street access @ genesee during snow or freeze is a huge deal! How did they not address that?Bus passenger load is not relevant to whether this program goes forward- but something would-be residents might consider. 

      • avagen September 20, 2018 (10:49 pm)

        IKR. And it’s pretty slick when it rains!  

  • WTF September 20, 2018 (9:15 pm)

    Seattle Apartmentville Washington.

  • AvalonTom September 21, 2018 (8:06 am)

    I love how they just dismissed the Sound Transit plan as undetermined so they are moving forward. The ST plan currently has 4 options on the table.  3 of them run through this property. The 4th option has a tunnel entry point right at this property line and is unlikely to move forward due to costs. Even if it did move forward it would impact the earthworks here. This property is basically at 100% chance of being affected by the ST plans.  This building has been here for how many years? Now that Sound Transit is few years from swinging the wrecking ball through west seattle these guys are going to build more fancy apartments?  There are other projects such as the Fauntleroy beautification that is on hold due to this.What this shows me is that either the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing at the planning department or the owner of this property is pushing this forward knowing perfectly well that they can milk ST later for money. I’m no expert at any of this, but we dont need more luxury apartments in seattle. There are hundreds of them sitting vacant. At my last check the Whitaker alone had someting like 20 or 30 vacant units. What we need is affordable housing for the working class. The last few places left around here are getting knocked down for luxury apartments for tech workers. Great plan guys!

    • Diane September 21, 2018 (3:54 pm)

      as always, excellent points AvalonTom; re ST, I hadn’t even thought the owner strategy could be ” they can milk ST later for money”, totally makes sense; so much more $$$ they can get from ST from 7 story “luxury” apts when ST goes through that parcel in 10+ years, than from 2 story historically affordable apts; and thank you for more truth, we need to preserve what we have left of our affordable apts; stop demolishing all the affordable housing; and build more real affordable apts, no more of these extremely high rent apts

      • chemist September 21, 2018 (8:43 pm)

        They don’t think they even have to build the apartments so much as have a viable plan to build them and be able to raise the “fair market value” of the property based on that future-use.

    • Deb September 21, 2018 (7:32 pm)

      I agree with your summary and when I attended the last public meeting with Sound Transit on 9/15/18, I saw all five alternative routes that have progressed to the next phase.  All five routes go up Genesee.  Three routes are above ground and either high or low guideways and two are tunnel options, entering from the east side of Avalon, exactly where this project accesses it’s parking/garage.  Sound Transit indicated that Genesee would also be closed a good portion of the construction and would most likely be a staging area for their equipment (tunnel or above ground) so I question this builder’s plans before the final route is determined in April, 2019.  Why build, only to be torn down?

  • LK September 21, 2018 (8:21 am)

    The planned number of units seems too large for the footprint of this lot without adversely affecting the surrounding residents.  Not happy about it; if it were to move forward the way it’s currently design it would permanently block light and views not just for the residents in the area, but for anyone travelling on Avalon.  Perhaps this could be scaled back to a reasonable number of units?  Replacing 16 units with 150 just seems greedy and ludicrous. 

  • TJ September 21, 2018 (8:47 am)

    Great points AvalonTom. It is obvious the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing here in Seattle. Unfortunately with affordable housing, the only way it will be affordable is with a huge downturn in the economy here where these new apartments drop drastically. The only thing cheap being built is micro apartments, and those really aren’t cheap considering the rent per square footage and that only a small portion of people are interested in those

  • Mj September 21, 2018 (9:03 am)

    What snow and in 20 years?  

  • DB40 September 21, 2018 (9:45 am)

    Why are plans even being considered if there’s the real possibility of ST3 claiming imminent domain on this property? Could it be that the property owner of The Golden Tee is attempting to artificially enhance the value so he can negotiate further compensation resulting from a declaration of imminent domain? Something “fishy” is going on.Great comments, Avalon Tom!

  • Ms. Sparkles September 21, 2018 (10:05 am)

    So did the people who bought the condos at Luna Court really believe the property next door would never change?  If the views were so integral to the value of their investments, the association should have considered purchasing a view easement from the owner of the Golden Tee. 

  • zark00 September 21, 2018 (10:10 am)

    Wow, Tom is right, there are tons of available apartments in West Seattle – I had no idea with the way they’re building right now.   5 units in the Junction for $1,100 / mo with 6 weeks free rent right now  – not free by any means but not crazy ridiculous.  I do know, from family in real estate, that once developers start on a project they really can’t stop without losing a lot of money.  If you’ve started buying land and hiring architects you’re in it and need to finish that project or you’ll lose big time.  I wonder if we aren’t in that right now – developers just pushing forward because they have to.  Agree it doesn’t seem like 150 high end apartments for tech workers to live on Avalon makes much sense.  I work in tech, nobody is talking about the great apartment they’re looking at on Avalon in WSea.  Tech workers making decent money want houses – period.  This project needs a serious reality check.

  • Swede. September 21, 2018 (1:45 pm)

    That’s a lot of units on a small footprint!  And you better like your neighbors when you move in there since two apartments have to share one parking spot…’Luxury apartments’! You guys are funny! That’s just a name, nothing here are being built as luxury! It’s all cheap AF and banged up as quick as possible. And that is the plan here too I bet. Especially as ‘Avalon Tom’ points out that SoundTransit will have to buy them out in a few years. A quick and easy way, with guarantee, to make money! Especially since rent will keep going down, houses also starting to go down and we are on the brink of a new, huge economic crash. 

    • AvalonTom September 22, 2018 (7:50 am)

      Yeah, you are right. By “fancy” or “luxury” I mean the rent only. The building itself will be junk. It will probably need new siding or windows within 6 years because the contractor cut corners as history shows with many of these buildings. I really dont think this will ever be built due to ST, but heck, I guess the more ST has to shell out to knock down housing the more likely they are to put in the tunnel.  So in a way, they should build it and gold plate it while they are at it.

  • Bob September 21, 2018 (2:09 pm)

    Nooooooo.Luxury apartments with not enough parking spaces.  Get real.  Quit building this garbage.

  • tiggs September 21, 2018 (8:03 pm)

     This will be another flimsy building going up! the idea is cram them in like sardines and get all you can.. as long as it looks halfway decent on the outside who cares what people REALLY have to live like lol. but that’s the modern way of living folks! Enjoy!

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