DEVELOPMENT: Southwest Design Review Board tells 7617 35th SW architect to try again

(Rendering from design packet by LDG Architects)

The first of tonight’s two Southwest Design Review Board meetings ended with an order for 7617 35th SW to make some changes and return for a second round of Early Design Guidance.

This first phase of Design Review is all about buildings’ size and shape, aka “massing,” and that’s what the big concern was here, along with placement of its entries. Board chair Patrick Cobb (Fauntleroy) led the meeting, with board members Alan Grainger (Fauntleroy), Johanna Lirman (North Admiral), and Gavin Schaefer (Camp Long area) in attendance. From the city Department of Construction and Inspections, David Sachs was filling in for the project’s assigned planner Joseph Hurley. Here’s how the meeting went, along the required four-section format:

ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: Architect Ed Linardic opened with some background on the site, including that it had grown since an earlier, smaller project went part of the way through Design Review four years ago. He described the commercial space as “6,000 square feet of office space” but did not elaborate. Using the design packet (which you can see here), he reviewed the site context, including the fact that it’s bordered by single-family homes to the west, and how it responds to stipulated city guidelines. The residential entry will be on the east side of the building (35th). He showed, as is required at Early Design Guidance meetings, three massing options. Scheme 3 steps the “wings” of the building – one would be four feet higher than the other:

BOARD’S CLARIFYING QUESTIONS: Grainger asked about the residential entries – noting the building would “basically fall in the middle of a signalized intersection” (35th/Holden/Ida) with no place for a vehicle to pull up, and wondering if Holden and/or Ida entries would be better. Linardic said the center entry would mean a shorter distance for residents. Grainger also noted that design schemes 2 and 3 don’t really differ from each other; Linardic said the site offers few options for divergence. Lirman wondered why an enclosed plaza was part of the “preferred” scheme; the architect said this would likely be less attractive to overnight camping, for example. Lirman also wondered about the variation between layout of floors, and Linardic replied that he was just “trying to create a little variation.” Schaefer wondered about the bike rooms’ placement. Cobb asked about the commercial space seeming to be at an elevation; the site is sloped, Linardic said, so they’re trying to get all the space on one level for maximum leasability.

PUBLIC COMMENT: One written comment received before the meeting suggested changing the parking entrance to 35th; non-design comments were received as well, Sachs said. He also noted comments received from Seattle Public Utilities and SDOT regarding aspects of the project over which they have jurisdiction. A written comment received during the meeting said they’re glad to see density but would like to hear about affordability; they also pointed out that the height is justified by using the nearby church tower but even one less floor for this project would better fit in with the neighborhood. They also wanted to see more setback, especially on SW Ida. Street level brick cladding would be a good echo of the neighboring church. Another person submitted a written comment expressing concern that more parking is needed and this is the time to build it beneath the building. Holden would be better for an entrance than Ida, the commenter said. They also expressed concern about the building’s height. Another attendee wanted to speak to present her comment, but the city’s WebEx setup wouldn’t allow them to unmute the attendee, who was subsequently asked to write their comments. That comment was read a few minutes into the “board deliberation” section. It voiced appreciation for more density but a request for more affordable units and a concern about the six-story height compared to nearby single-family homes and three- or four-story apartment buildings. This commenter too thought SW Holden would be more appropriate for the entrance.

BOARD DELIBERATION: Grainger again pointed out that the architect was not presenting three distinct massing schemes. He also said the south-to-north height differential should lend itself to the suggested entrance on SW Holden instead of SW Ida. Lirman offered a variety of comments including facade composition and an early look at finishes, saying she agreed that some brick would be good; Schaefer wondered about daylight to some of the interior-faces spaces, and also thinks the north side needs more attention for its visibility. And in relation to nearby zoning, “more attention needs to be paid to that.” He also thought the change in grade at the street level called for some landscaping attention, and he too said access from Holden would be better than Ida. He noted that the architect had said Holden is slated to become a bike lane, and Linardic spoke up to say that in early meetings with SDOT, they were told they needed the entrance to be on Ida. He also wanted to see the frontage on 35th broken up a bit. Grainger reiterated that he liked Scheme 1 best and remained disappointed it’s being basically taken off the table. Lirman said she, like Grainger, likes Option 3 the least and appreciates Option 1 breaking up the building into what looks like two smaller buildings. Cobb agreed on that aspect of Scheme 1, “we really like how the two buildings are broken down,” and he thinks that would “fix a lot of the issues we have with the project.” Then they talked about the ground-level commercial space. Grainger had concerns about “connectivity to the sidewalk,” and Cobb agreed, saying it “needs more work.”

By then they were running out of time in the meeting’s hour-and-a-half window, and Cobb summarized:
-Issues regarding scale and bulk of building; Option 1 would be preferred
-Need more thought into retail – for an example of a project that deals successfully with grade change, Schaefer suggested The Whittaker but Grainger disagreed
-More thought into residential entrances, locate them on residential streets rather than 35th
-More thought about concept, to reflect materials already seen in the neighborhoode

In the end, they voted 3-1 to have a second Early Design Guidance meeting (Schaefer was the lone vote to let the project move ahead). Watch for the date on that; in the meantime, you can send comments on any aspect of the project to

P.S. A quick look at the city’s Bicycle Master Plan doesn’t show a bicycle lane on SW Holden near the project; we’ll be checking with SDOT, though, as the department has digressed from the plan at times.

35 Replies to "DEVELOPMENT: Southwest Design Review Board tells 7617 35th SW architect to try again"

  • Rhonda February 2, 2023 (7:44 pm)

    Glad to see this project is getting the extra attention the neighborhood deserves.

  • Flo B February 2, 2023 (8:43 pm)

    Office space means employees. Does anyone expect all those associated with the office space will bike/walk/transit to work there and no one will drive?? Where are they expected to park??

    • WSB February 2, 2023 (9:08 pm)

      As I wrote, there was no elaboration. Could just have been his choice of words, but I decided to mention it for the record. Further north on 35th is one notable case of a project that was expected to bring in new businesses but instead gave over most of its commercial space to offices, Upton Flats (which has Nos Nos but also has an extensive amount of space devoted to Housing Authority staff).

    • D-Ridge February 2, 2023 (9:27 pm)

      The ever-predictable comment for any project in West Seattle.

  • Tina Vlasaty February 2, 2023 (9:25 pm)

    @WSB Anyone know the story behind Pearl Jam being listed as owner of the project?

    • WSB February 2, 2023 (9:48 pm)

      Thanks, that one’s a headscratcher. I’ve looked at that page probably a couple dozen times while reporting on this project and haven’t seen that line before; Ilia Kertsman is still on county property records as the owner. But who knows – the band certainly has West Seattle links; I’ll keep digging. – TR

    • josh February 3, 2023 (2:21 am)

      The property at the address listed for Pearl Jam Inc. has a company called “Deke River” at it and has Jeff Ament as one of the 3 names on the articles.  Interesting noticing.

  • JS February 2, 2023 (9:59 pm)

    I like the design and think design review is a waste of everybody’s time and energyz

    • Neighbor February 2, 2023 (10:42 pm)

      Well thank goodness you’re not in the design review. Would hate to waste time planning a 6 story behemoth that has the potential to screw up traffic flow on 35th. Taking time to plan these things seems well worth it to me. 

      • M February 2, 2023 (11:09 pm)

        Oh no! Not traffic flow 😱

      • D-Ridge February 2, 2023 (11:31 pm)

        Nothing that the board suggested would have any impact in the traffic flow etc., it’s just aesthetic preference. A project’s compliance with the actual code is done by the City, if it meets codified requirements then that is all that‘s required of the applicant. This process is essentially just debating material palettes which delays projects by months and adds significant costs to housing.

        • Mark B February 3, 2023 (7:23 am)

          Whether their primary intent or not, the board’s discussion of having the entrance on 35th most certainly has a connection to traffic flow. Rideshares, delivery vehicles, etc. at a 35th entrance doing the “as long as my flashers are on it’s OK” routine would essentially be parked in an intersection. 

        • sam-c February 3, 2023 (8:13 am)

          Not just materials/ colors, but massing too.    

      • Ice February 3, 2023 (8:52 am)

        If you drive your car on 35th Ave then congratulations, you are the biggest contributor to ‘screwing up the traffic flow.’

        • Reluctant car driver February 3, 2023 (1:14 pm)

          Ice, I might have misinterpreted what you were saying, but your comment seems, at best, naive. And certainly does not help the discussion.  Yes, I drive a car on 35th. But I don’t drive just for fun. Or to deliberately ruin the environment. I drive because I have to.I need to drive to get to work, get groceries, get to medical appointments, drop my child at school, and many other reasons. I really wish we could use public transport and bicycles to do everything we need, but that just isn’t realistic.I sincerely hope that improves with better public transport and/or other options. But that could take years and, realistically, may never happen to the extent most people would like.I fully support better transport options that don’t involve cars. But also, my family and I are just trying to live simple lives as best we can, with what we have available. Both things can be true at the same time.

    • WSRes February 3, 2023 (7:29 am)

      Yeah seriously, talk about micromanaging a project – I don’t know how architects and builders sit through this without going insane, not to mention how expensive it must be to be constantly changing the design. 

    • Ron Swanson February 3, 2023 (9:09 am)

      Reminder to everyone to call your legislator and let them know you support HB1026 which will end this pointless design review circus.

      • JCW February 3, 2023 (10:42 am)

        Oh this is great! I’m sending a note to my Rep now! I’m all for proper code and usage reviews, but open community design review is like a having a NIMBY HOA for the whole city. I’m flabbergasted that some neighbors can be loud enough to delay or even prevent building the density needed to house everyone in our neighborhoods. 

      • WS Res February 3, 2023 (1:10 pm)

        Thanks for the reminder – will do today.

  • ColumbiaChris February 3, 2023 (1:07 am)

    Time to get rid of design review. The city is short on housing by tens of thousands of units, and design review is delaying projects for months on ends because they want to see different colors of brick or other such nonsense.

  • OneTimeCharley February 3, 2023 (5:25 am)

    Meanwhile 75+ fully completed tiny homes sit on a lot in SoDo, some waiting months and months to be deployed. The design review process is not causing the lack of available housing, temporary or otherwise, as some would like you to believe. This vital step in development helps assure that the cheapest crap, in the harshest renditions, don’t become reality on every corner of the city. You think the new construction materials and styles look cheap, predictable, repetitive? I can only imagine the lack of design imagination if we were to ever stop reviewing projects in this way prior to their approval.

    • Eliminate DR February 3, 2023 (11:20 am)

      Chicken or the Egg?

      The design review is the cause of such unimaginative buildings.  
      Ask any architect if the deplorable process enhances design or squashes any creative input.  
      Beside the McDonaldisation standardization of cookie cutter approval, the Design Rev view  suppresses and adds immeasurably to the cost of housing.
      Design Review did not exist for all of Seattle’s lauded  traditional housing, why is it needed now?
      It is an out-growth of the lasting damage of the Charlie Chong era of NIMBYism that masqueraded as “concerns” over development and is proven by academics as the root cause of cities like Seattle’s current housing crisis.
      It is another failed experiment of politicians bowing to the few outspoken loudest voices  in our community.

      The sooner it is cancelled, the better.

  • What about WS traffic February 3, 2023 (7:13 am)

    Time to pay attention, West Seattle neighbors!!  What is the plan for parking — and especially for mitigating already clogged traffic in this neighborhood?  And more “massing” (interesting term in design review) buildings on 35th Ave SW will worsen already poor traffic flow — thanks to the ill-conceived 35th SW loss-of-lanes “road diet” that was put into place a few years ago and plagues West Seattle every single day.  

  • DJ February 3, 2023 (11:05 am)

    Last thing we need in WS is more condos. Should be a moratorium on multi family dwellings until road ways can be improved. Gone are the days of crossing WS with ease. WS should not become another Ballard. 

    • WSB February 3, 2023 (11:18 am)

      These are planned as apartments, not condos, of which very few have been built in WS in recent years (prime view property on Alki is the main exception).

      • DJ February 3, 2023 (12:05 pm)

        Splitting hairs, condos or apartments regardless multi family. Not needed right now, infrastructure needs to be improved before we pile more people into WS. Sorry we are full. 

    • Eliminate DR February 3, 2023 (12:11 pm)

      Any suggestions of how to create more roadways in our fully built out infrastructure? 
      And are you aware of the long ago proven axiom of cars, “if you build roads, cars will be acquired to clog them.”  It would require thousands of single family homes, businesses and apartments to be razed to pave new parking lots, er roads.  
      Kind of a hyper post Joni Mitchell nightmare.

  • HS February 3, 2023 (11:12 am)

    It’d be great to see a “project (design) that interacts with the streetscape” similar to the development/ design review of the new Aegis Living on California. (see article post after this one)

  • Niko February 3, 2023 (11:51 am)

    How about instead of “trying again”we just not build the ugly monstrosity

  • Michael Waldo February 3, 2023 (11:52 am)

    The design review process is out of control. These things popup here all the time with the note that it had been 9 months since the last review. Then, opps, we need to do a few more months of review. It is needed but doesn’t need to take months and months. Needs to be streamlined. There was a project recently that the multiple design reviews took two years!

  • Diogenes February 3, 2023 (2:52 pm)

    This was my first time listening in to a design review meeting and I was honestly appalled. Does our current regulatory regime really empower these bureaucrats to look over the shoulder of a developer and offer their critiques on aesthetic grounds? The vague, inarticulate feedback about “community character” and “context” provides essentially no guidance other than “we wished this looked different.” Beyond ensuring public safety and meeting basic building code, there should be NO input from NIMBY neighbors or city representatives in what someone can build on their property.  On a related note, the current lot is a LITERAL JUNK YARD! Anything would be better than the status quo. These people are out of the their minds to slow down (or potentially even kill) this project with this drivel.  Thanks to the commenter above who pointed out HB 1026 – I’m writing my representatives today. 

  • Pete February 3, 2023 (3:45 pm)

    @wsb any advice for how we can reach out to SDOT and encourage them to re-think their Holden garage entrance restrictions? Because of the limited turn options in the Ida & 35th intersection, putting the garage entrance on Ida will a) prompt a lot of dangerous turns to/from NB 35th, b) force most traffic to/from the garage to drive through residential streets or c) both.

  • George February 3, 2023 (5:19 pm)

    Thanks for the reminder to contact my legislators and tell them to oppose HB1026, which would eliminate the last vestige of neighborhood control and input on the massively ugly apartment construction clogging the city.

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