By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight the five-story mixed-use proposal for 9218 18th SW won first-stage Design Review approval on the second try.
In the Southwest Design Review Board‘s first meeting of the year, present were the board’s new chair Scott Rosenstock and members John Cheng and Alan Grainger, along with the project’s assigned city planner David Sachs, and Design Review program manager Lisa Rutzick. The board had told the project team last October to give the Early Design Guidance phase a second try.
ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: Presenting from Caron Architecture was principal Radim Blazej, who brought a team including project manager Andrew Kluess. They described the 5-story project as apartments – about 56, with 28 offstreet parking spaces (though none is required) – over commercial space fronting both Delridge and 18th.
For site context, Blazej pointed out that community efforts continue toward turning a nearby triangle of land into a park, and that there’s other redevelopment nearby, including new townhouses. Also, the site has to deal with three power lines running nearby.
The board didn’t like any of the three massing (size/shape) options presented last October, so they brought two new ones this time, Options 4 and 5:
Option 5 was the project team’s preference. Blazej talked about their efforts addressing the concerns from the first meeting – the building’s amount of “blank facade,” and its setback from the neighboring townhouses. They’re proposing seating outside the commercial area on Delridge, towqrd the south side of the building.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Cheng asked about the balconies in Option 5. “We tried to make a special facade for Delridge,” Blazej explained. Rosenstock asked about the pocket park proposal nearby, and where they’re at with street improvements. Kluess said they’ve submitted a proposed to SDOT for the latter; for the former, the site development schedule isn’t clear. Rosenstock also asked whether windows would be possible for the west side of the building. Blazej said they could, though that’s likely where the bathrooms would be.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Five people signed up to comment.The first comment was given to staff to read; it was from a nearby resident who is concerned about the height and the proximity of the project to their home, worrying that an underground garage would put their foundation at risk, and saying a 5-story apartment building would be out of place. Next comment was from Matt Hutchins, a former board member who had reviewed the original design, complimenting the design team on their revisions. Third commenter said she lives in the nearby townhouses and is concerned about privacy from windows that will be just 7 feet away, as well as reduced light. She too was concerned about height. (The site was recently upzoned.) Fourth commenter said he preferred Option 5 but that the facade could use further depth, explaining that it seemed “flat.” More balconies would be good, too, he said, as would “a little bit more space” between the project and neighboring buildings. Fifth commenter voiced concerns about the impact on the neighboring townhouses – that they’re be shadowed, that there’s not enough privacy/separation, and that the building will reduce the townhouses’ value by, among other things, removing their Mount Rainier view.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Cheng and Grainger said they’re still concerned about blank walls, with light opportunities lost to some of the units. Blazej said the main reason for part of the blank wall was because development is likely next door in the future, and windows wouldn’t be appropriate. Grainger suggested it could be done without a future privacy concern. Regarding massing, Grainger said he preferred Option 5, “the way it meets Delridge,” and Cheng concurred. Rosenstock said the building’s ground-level connection to the street remains an issue, but he too supported Option 5. Cheng agreed with the neighbors’ concerns that more setback would be optimal, and he suggested landscaping could help with the impact to adjacent properties. He also asked that the architects provide more information about the plan for the alley at the next review. Board members voiced appreciation for the balconies, “adding a nice level of detail.” Regarding the street interaction, Rosenstock said the setback seemed generous, and said he considered the design at that level “well done.” Cheng agreed. Grainger said the narrow strips of blank wall on the north and south sides need some landscaping. Rosenstock said it’ll be important to see the differentiation of the commercial and residential entries when the project has its next-phase review. They agreed “security and safety” will be important aspects for that to address. All three voted to support advancing the project to the next phase of review.
WHAT’S NEXT: The project will have a final Design Review Board meeting once the full level of design detail has been developed, usually at least a few months down the road. In the meantime, since it’s passed the first phase of Design Review, the developers will be able to formally apply for their master-use permit (if you listened to the meeting, that’s the “MUP” reference). You can send planner Sachs comments on any aspect of the project, not just design – firstname.lastname@example.org.