DEVELOPMENT: Southwest Design Review Board tells 1116 Alki SW project team to try again

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

At the first Southwest Design Review Board meeting of the year – the only one on the schedule so far – board members told the project team they have to come back for another try at getting Early Design Guidance approval.

The project is a residential building planned for 1116 Alki SW [map], a water-view site that currently holds six houses.

Present at the online meeting were board chair Scott Rosenstock along with three of the other four members – John Cheng, Alan Grainger, and Johanna Lirman, all West Seattleites. Also there, Theresa Neylon, the city planner assigned to the project.

The Early Design Guidance phase is the first of the two Design Review phases, and the focus is on “massing” – the building’s size and shape, and its placement on the site – as well as on which of the city’s design guidelines are most important for the project to meet. As Neylon reminded everyone, “the graphics are conceptual,” meaning that, especially for this phase, they don’t reflect all details that will be in the final design. (For example, it was reiterated, what the graphics show as big blank panels at the front of the building WILL have windows in the actual design.) See the design packet here or below:
(‘Preferred option’ rendering from draft design packet by MZA Architecture)
The meeting proceeded along the standard format – here’s our recap:

ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: Heywood Chan from MZA Architecture said the project is intended to “continue the midrise trend” of redevelopment in the area. He recapped the proposal for 58 residential units on 5 levels over the first floor. Between slope area and trees, about 50 percent of the site is unusable, Chan said. Two large trees were briefly described – one is significant but not (officially) exceptional, a cherry tree, and the other one, a birch, is exceptional but considered susceptible to pests. The trees would be retained in design options 1 and 2, but not in option 3, which is the development team’s “preferred option.”

One feature of option 3 is that it’s set back further than required in front, which would minimize how it affects west-side neighbors’ views. Removing the trees would facilitate a ramp to access parking, which would be more “economical,” as Chan put it. Their landscape architect said at least four trees would be planted to replace the two that would be removed (as the city requires). They’re requesting two zoning exceptions – “departures” – for exceeding the maximum allowable building dimensions, and diverging from rules for setback – there would be more in front but a lot less in back.

BOARD QUESTIONS: Cheng asked for the major differences between the options to be spelled out, and for the architects to describe how the setback reductions proposed for option 3 would help the neighborhood. Grainger asked whether the architects had explored another option to get to underground parking that would enable the trees to be preserved.

MZA’s Evette Yu said the three-tier mechanical-parking plan was the best they could come up with. Yu said their arborist didn’t think the birch tree would survive construction stress no matter what. Lirman wanted to know more about how they arrived at the proposed setbacks. Yu said they tried to pack as much as they could in the back of the building so as to minimize the impact on the neighbors. Chan said they wouldn’t have windows facing the neighbors, at least in the spots where the buildings would be closer together. Lirman wondered about seeing renderings showing that; Yu said the windows would be in the renderings for the next phase. Rosenstock asked about screening the parking area from the street; Yu pointed out where the garage door would be, and again promised further details in the next phase.

PUBLIC COMMENT: Written comments were summarized briefly, including a few opposed to granting one or both proposed zoning exceptions, one in favor of Option 2’s “mid-building courtyard,” one supporting increased modulation for the building, and another concerned about rooftop use. Some non-design comments were received too – Neylon will be handling those, as she’s reviewing the full project, not just its design. One person signed up to give a spoken comment and said he’s a representative of a neighboring condo complex. He said they hope to work with the city and project team on a project “worthy of its iconic location.” He said they’ve provided the city with a “detailed memo” outlining their concerns. Of most concern, he said, is the mechanical-parking component, which he contended does not fulfill the parking requirements. The project focuses more on maximizing space than on respecting city guidelines, he contended.

BOARD DELIBERATION: After listing their respective “hot-button issues,” as requested by chair Rosenstock, they agreed that they were leaning more toward favoring massing option 1. Yu said that the project should get extra height for saving trees but in the shoreline area, they weren’t permitted to make the building any higher. That led to a discussion of the trees. Cheng said he didn’t mind removing them, but didn’t see anything really being “given back” as a result. Lirman agreed. Couldn’t Option 1 have a street-side courtyard instead of one on the back? Grainger wondered. As they started to run out of time, they all ultimately agreed they’re OK with tree removal, but “need to see a great parking solution when they come back” as Grainger put it. He also suggested the replacement trees should be in public view; maybe not all four, Rosenstock said. Neylon noted there are power lines in front of the building that might get in the way of that. Regarding massing, despite the previous sentiment toward option 1, they then concluded they couldn’t strongly recommend any of the three except to say they were most strongly opposed to option 3. In the end, all four agreed the development team should return for a second Early Design Guidance meeting. What they want to see are “three viable different options that will work for this site,” Rosenstock summarized – “more creative ways of addressing parking, response to street front, maximize the building envelope without the trees” is their guidance.

WHAT’S NEXT: Since this needs an EDG redo, there will be at least two more Design Review meetings for this project, dates to be announced when the project team and city are ready. Meantime, if you have comments about the project, whether on design or other aspects, you can send them to the assigned planner at

4 Replies to "DEVELOPMENT: Southwest Design Review Board tells 1116 Alki SW project team to try again"

  • Karen April 9, 2022 (6:09 am)

    Dear Tracy,  thanks again for a full fledged summation of a local meeting.  I sat through this one and you seem to recapture everything including overall nuances  APPRECIATE you and WS Blog for all your hard work and keeping the WS Community informed on WS life and events, 👏👏⭐⭐

  • 🍾🥂✨ April 10, 2022 (9:52 am)

    So, so glad I’m not an architect anymore. What drudgery…. 

  • Brooke April 12, 2022 (1:58 pm)

    Great article. Do not get why this project deserves higher massing than others allowed. I could care less about the massing but not understanding the exception requested. Get rid of the trees. That is part of redevelopment giving the density increase. You can’t always increase the number of housing given the constraints onsite. 

  • Edward Shipman April 15, 2022 (11:09 pm)

    As neighbors, we are really worried about three things: the massive size of the building, the possible erosion of soil and trees behind the building, and the negative impact on parking in the neighborhood.

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