By Tracy Records
West Seattle Blog Editor
At first Southwest Design Review Board meeting of the year – the only one on the agenda so far – the board members told the project team they had to come back for another attempt to get Early Design Tips approval.
The project is a planned residential building at 1116 Alki SW [map]a site overlooking the water that currently houses six homes.
Were present at the online meeting the Chairman of the Board of Directors Scott Rosenstock with three of the other four members – John Cheng Alan Graingerand Johanna Lirmann, all West Seattleites. Here too, Therese Neylonthe town planner assigned to the project.
The Early Design Guidance phase is the first of two Design Review phases, and the focus is on the “mass” – the size and shape of the building, and its location on the site – as well as the design guidelines of the city which are the most important. for the project to meet. As Neylon reminded everyone, “the graphics are conceptual”, which means that, especially for this phase, they do not reflect all the details that will be in the final design. (For example, it was reiterated, what the graphics show as large blank panels on the front of the AURA building of the windows in the actual design.) See design package here or below:
(Render ‘Preferred Option’ from design package project by MZA Architecture)
The meeting went according to the standard format – here is our recap:
PRESENTATION OF ARCHITECT: Heywood Chan from MZA Architecture said the project aims to “continue the medium upward trend” of redevelopment in the area. He summarized the proposal of 58 residential units on 5 levels on the first floor. Between the sloping area and the trees, about 50% of the site is unusable, Chan said. Two large trees were briefly described – one is significant but not (officially) exceptional, a cherry, and the other, a birch, is exceptional but considered susceptible to pests. Trees would be kept in design options 1 and 2, but not in option 3, which is the development team’s “preferred option”.
One of the features of Option 3 is that it is set back more than necessary at the front, which would minimize the impact it has on the views of neighbors on the west side. Removing the trees would facilitate a ramp to the parking lot, 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 required by the city). They are asking for two zoning exceptions – “departures” – for exceeding the maximum allowable dimensions of the building and deviating from the setback rules – there would be more in the front but much less in the back.
COUNCIL QUESTIONS: Cheng requested that the main differences between the options be specified and that the architects describe how the setback reductions proposed for Option 3 would help the neighborhood. Grainger asked if the architects had explored another option for accessing the underground parking lot that would preserve the trees.
MZA Evette Yu said the three-level mechanical parking plan was the best they could come up with. Yu said their arborist didn’t think the birch would survive the stress of construction no matter what. Lirman wanted to know more about how they arrived at the proposed setbacks. Yu said they tried to put as many as they could in the back of the building to minimize the impact on neighbors. Chan said they wouldn’t have windows facing neighbors, at least where the buildings are closer together. Lirman wondered about seeing renders showing this; Yu said windows will be in renders for the next phase. Rosenstock asked if it was possible to protect the street parking area; Yu pointed out where the garage door would be and again promised more details in the next phase.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Written comments were briefly summarized, including a few opposing the granting of one or both of the proposed zoning exceptions, one in favor of Option 2’s “mid-building yard”, one in in favor of increased modulation for the building and another worried about the use of the roof. Some non-design related comments were also received – Neylon will handle that as she is looking at the whole project, not just the design. One person registered to give a verbal comment and claimed to be a representative from a nearby condo complex. He said they hope to work with the city and the project team on a project “worthy of its iconic location”. He said they provided the city with a “detailed memo” outlining their concerns. Of most concern, he said, is the mechanical parking component, which he says does not meet parking requirements. The project focuses more on maximizing space than meeting city guidelines, he argued.
BOARD DELIBERATION: After listing their respective “hot issues”, at the request of Chairman Rosenstock, they agreed that they were leaning more towards mass option 1. Yu said the project should get some extra height to save trees, but in the riparian zone, It is not allowed to raise the building. This led to a discussion about trees. Cheng said he didn’t mind removing them, but he hadn’t seen anything really “rendered” as a result. Lirman agreed. Couldn’t option 1 have a street side yard instead of one at the back? Grainger wondered. As they started to run out of time, they all finally agreed that they were fine with the tree removal, but that they “need to see a great parking solution when they get back”, as the said Grainger. He also suggested that the replacement trees be in public view; maybe not all four, Rosenstock said. Neylon noted that there were power lines in front of the building which could interfere with this. As for the mass, despite previous sentiment towards Option 1, they then concluded that they could not strongly recommend any of the three, except to say that they were most strongly opposed to Option 3. Ultimately, all four agreed that the development team should return for a second early design orientation meeting. What they want to see are “three different viable options that will work for this site,” Rosenstock summed up — “more creative ways to approach parking, respond to the street front, maximize the building envelope without the trees” are their advice.
AND AFTER: As this requires an EDG overhaul, there will be at least two more design review meetings for this project, dates will be announced when the project team and the city are ready. In the meantime, if you have any comments on the project, whether on the design or other aspects, you can send them to the planner assigned to [email protected].