(Design packet provided for tonight’s meeting, downloaded from city website)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Eight months after getting thumbs-down on its first Early Design Guidance try, the 15-apartment Alki proposal for 3015 63rd SW (map) got thumbs-up tonight.
The proposal went through some major revisions before returning to the Southwest Design Review Board.
Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections‘ assigned planner Tami Garrett noted that since the project’s first turn at Early Design Guidance, the project team has said it will seek a contract rezone that would allow an extra floor plus incorporate Mandatory Housing Affordability. That will be considered in a separate process after this one.
Board members present: chair Don Caffrey along with Crystal Loya, John Cheng, and Scott Rosenstock.
ARCHITECT/PROJECT TEAM PRESENTATION: Oly Wise, representing the family that owns the site (see our original report here), opened by saying they’d learned a lot had changed since the project was initiated. They were pleased to learn about MHA and thought it would turn their project from good to great. He then made way for architect James Raptis.
He recapped some of the site history (also featured in our original story on the project, and in the design packet), dating back to the 1851 Denny Party landing and the 1905 Stockade Hotel, and also noted the same family owns of the complex north of the project site. Raptis said there will be some materials that show the relationship between the two sites, such as “the same brick.” Responding to a criticism from the first EDG meeting, he showed three distinct options for the building’s potential size/shape. (Option A is the project team’s “preferred option.”)
Raptis went over the floor plans and designs of a prototype unit. He also said they’re working to ensure the apartment residents won’t be facing the residents to the south. Rooftop amenities are planned regardless of whether the project ends up at three stories or four – including a barbecue area and vegetable gardens. He also explained how the new proposal answered specific points of concern voiced in the first review (see the city reports here). The landscape plan, meantime, is by Michael Lochman of West Seattle-based WEdesign (WSB sponsor); some of the trees planned for the site include aspens, beeches, and cypress.
They’re requesting one departure (exception to zoning-related guidelines) for A – as explained in the packet, “We are asking to be allowed to add decks at the NE and NW corners of the building. This would exceed the facade limit allowed within 15′ of the side property line.”
BOARD CLARIFYING QUESTIONS: Rosenstock asked about security planning on the site. Raptis said the garage is enclosed, with multiple locked doors, but the path between this building and the one next door will remain open, as it is now. Cheng requested clarification on the departure request; it’s only for option A, Raptis replied. Cheng also wondered why the project team thought A was the superior option – Raptis listed attributes such as “modern,” “efficient,” bigger deck space, “better views of Alki.” Wise added that the “really nice decks” were indeed a plus for A. Loya offered a comment – that she appreciated the historical context in the building – before asking about the landscape plan, noting that the packet included a more ‘active’ plan than the renderings showed. Caffrey wondered about the with/without elevator status of the designs, and Raptis noted that four floors would require one, while three would not.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Three people spoke (Caffrey reiterated that design issues were the scope of comments). A resident of a condo building to the west said she had hoped for a “mitigating factor” that this would be going up “across a one-car-wide alley. … I’m going to lose all my light, basically, except for July at 4 o’clock.” There’ll be a “blank wall of parking spaces” facing her building, she said. “My only windows are on the second floor facing into that.”
Another area resident said she and her neighbors are concerned about the area “still being a neighborhood … we’re putting up with an awful lot of development in our neighborhood” and especially when there are events in the area, there’s a lot of pedestrian activity …” They’re also concerned about parking, though it was pointed out that the site currently includes no parking and would in this case include the one-and-a-half-space-per-unit Alki overlay requirements. From there the discussion briefly sidetracked into the possibility of the project going to 4 stories.
Third person to comment was Deb Barker, former SWDRB chair and frequent review attendee/commenter. She said she was glad to see, given the high water table in the area, that the project team wasn’t trying to work against that. She also expressed appreciation at the project team’s plan to provide affordable housing on site. Overall, though, she said she liked Option B better than A: “It feels like a real design,” with even a bit of maritime feel and “visual interest,” though she agreed “the layout of Option A” was superior, so she hoped a hybrid might be possible. And she echoed previous concerns about the alley, security, and pedestrian use. She would “encourage even more visual blockage of the garage. … It’s not just the back of the building, it’s the other front door.” In order to grant the departure, she added, there needed to be something else “given back,” like maybe glassing-in for part of the rooftop amenity area.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Loya said her major concern from the first review, that there weren’t three distinct options, had been answered. Rosenstock said Option C didn’t seem to have much merit so he supported debating A and B. Cheng said his major concerns were security (particularly in the sliding-door ground-floor unit/s) and screening of the garage. Loya then noted she shared some of her fellow board members’ concerns. The discussion then moved into A vs. B. Caffrey said he liked a component of the B massing, but that design’s curve might be more “daunting.” Rosenstock said A seemed “more functional” and he added that the “curve doesn’t seem to solve anything …” With that, they decided to focus on Option A. Ensuing discussion included how to address the issue of light. “Work(ing) on the southeast corner” was noted. Loya also suggested that using color to relate to the design’s “popouts” could be a key point. She also underscored the importance of seeing more landscape-plan detail in the second Design Review phase. Discussion also ensued regarding the garage and how it would look from all sides, as well as regarding the setbacks, and the project team’s tentative plan for some sort of art paying tribute to the site’s history, especially the Natives who lived there first.
In summary: The board supports the project moving forward with Option A. “Ground-level interaction” will be a focus of the next meeting, as will renderings of the detailed landscaping plan, details of how the alley will be handled including “how they’re being a good neighbor” and lighting. They’re “inclined to support” the departure request but want to see more details before a final decision. And they want to hear more about the history tribute
WHAT’S NEXT: The project now moves to the “recommendation” phase of Design Review, which means at least one more meeting, to review a more detailed version of the design. A date will be set when the project team and city are ready (and we’ll publish an update as soon as that date turns up on the calendar, which is usually a few weeks before the official city notice). If you have comments on any aspect of the project, you can send them to planner Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.