(First-stage design packet for project)
The Southwest Design Review Board got its first look tonight at the ~126-unit apartment building proposed for 3417 Harbor Avenue SW.
They decided to approve advancing the project out of the first phase – Early Design Guidance.
Two community members showed up, in addition to four board members (chair Crystal Loya was absent so vice chair Matt Hutchins led the meeting), city planner Crystal Torres, and six members of the project team.
Here’s how the meeting unfolded:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: The 5-story project was described by architect Michelle Linden from Atelier Drome as a “small but vital part of bringing affordable housing” to the area. That would be done, she said, via its participation in the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program.
Stepped massing and open space are under consideration. Challenging features of the site include the steep slope, street frontage on two sides, and power lines on the west side. (Below is our site photo from last month:)
They’re proposing weighting the building toward Harbor Avenue, to try to be “more respectful” to the zoning transition from the single-family residences to the west. Most of the parking garage (71 spaces proposed) also will be along Harbor.
The three massing options (you can see them all in the packet) they presented were dubbed Hinge, Dado, and Interlock (preferred by the project team). It’s inspired by interlocking stones. It would have stepped heights on the 30th SW side and would set the building away from the neighboring homes and power lines. The mass also would be dropped at the “corner” of the lot (there’s actually city-owned land on the corner, but it’s expected to remain open space TFN). They’re requesting two departures – zoning exceptions. One would seek to remove an exceptional (but, they said, ailing) tree from the lot. Removing it would support the parking they’re seeking as well as other elements of the project. They’re planning street trees on the project site as well as dog-waste receptacles. Two roof decks would be included – with plantings to screen them from the neighbors. The second departure would be allowing the parking to be along the street (though behind a wall). They say they can provide a barrier and green screens to keep that from leading to a “blank facade.” The parking will include lifts.
It’s too early for final material proposals but they’re expecting a “simple palette.”
BOARD QUESTIONS: John Cheng asked about dimensions – 126 x 60 – and fall protection because of the slope. The project team expects the sidewalk won’t slope enough to require that. Alan Grainger asked about residential entrances. Just one, they confirmed (though two exits). He said one of the two elevators could provide access to 30th SW, which would allow easier access to Admiral Way bus routes. The team agreed that’s “a valid comment” and promised “to investigate that further.” A question from Hutchins led to a mention that they’re considering a bench and planting out front while also cognizant of concerns that could be used as “a sleeping area.” Scott Rosenstock asked for more detail on the “central courtyard” and the project team acknowledged the space in question isn’t really a grand feature.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Two members of the public were there. The first one asked what was meant by “zero-lot line”; she lives in Harbor Place condos, immediately north, and noted that side of the project wasn’t discussed, only the 30th SW side. She’s also concerned about digging on the slope. The architects said the project actually will be set back three to 11 feet. The neighbor also voiced concern about “balconies facing my building.” She also voiced traffic concerns (which aren’t in the SWDRB’s purview, but Torres said that SDOT had reviewed the project and determined that access should be off Harbor). The other attendee, who had identified himself as an architect, said he was concerned about the long blank facade.
BOARD DISCUSSION: Starting with key concerns – Rosenstock said the blank facade (along the street-level parking, which is the building’s main “interaction with Harbor”) was his main point of concern. Grainger said the “Interlock” idea needed some tweaks to hold together; a later summary called for more “clarity of concept.” Hutchins focused on the 30th SW transition as well as the blank facade. Proportionality was what concerned Cheng the most. About the massing, he liked the corner treatment; Hutchins thought Interlock was good but perhaps just misnamed. They also discussed whether the “stepped-down” portion of the building was misplaced – it might be more appropriate on the north side, facing another building, than the south side, facing open space. They also talked about how usable the 30th side of the site really will be, 15 feet or so “down” because of the slope. “We intend to landscape it,” architect Linden interjected. Grainger reiterated the point that “what’s being considered the back of this building is actually a connection to the Admiral neighborhood” – with grocery stores and more. The board agreed they want to see some kind of access addressed in the revised design. They said they’re “inclined to support” the request for a departure to remove the tree; Hutchins said he’d seen it and “it’s a mess.” But they’re not yet ready to take a stand on the parking-related departure (current city rules say there needs to be some other “use” between parking and streetfront). They’ll make those decisions based on how the revised design looks in the next phase.
WHAT’S NEXT: Comments can still be sent to the assigned city planner – email@example.com – meantime, at least one more public board meeting will be held, likely at least a few months from now. In the meantime, Torres will be preparing a full detailed official report on this one.