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Clubhouse, station block development both cause controversy

April 4th, 2012 at 10:16 am | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Susanne Rockwell of Seattle Parks discusses the planned new Jefferson Park Golf Clubhouse to a skeptical audience at last night's NBHC meeting. Photo by Wendi Dunlap/Beacon Hill Blog.

The locals were a bit restless at last night’s North Beacon Hill Council meeting. The agenda included presentations about the new Jefferson Park Golf Clubhouse plan and about the development planned for the southeast corner of the Beacon Hill Station block, and both projects seemed to raise some hackles.

The Golf Clubhouse caused the most ruckus. Susanne Rockwell of Seattle Parks and Recreation was there to present the plan, and started off the evening on a defensive note, introducing the plan by saying Jefferson Park “is not an Olmsted park,” and emphasizing that the improved views from the clubhouse would provide “more eyes on the street” — as well as views to the golf course on the other side of Beacon Avenue. One neighbor asked if the new views of downtown would only be enjoyed by those at the driving range, and Rockwell answered that passers-by on Beacon Avenue would be able to enjoy them too.

The plan presented seemed to be the same as the one previously discussed here, where you can find a link to presentation materials. Rockwell answered some general questions about the project, and mentioned that the likelihood of an addition of new parking parallel to Beacon Avenue, though it is in the plan, is “slim.” This brought applause from one member of the audience.

After this the tone of the meeting grew tense. Several members of the audience challenged Rockwell’s assertion that Jefferson park is not an Olmsted park. Rockwell replied “There was not an Olmsted plan for the park.” There was disagreement and shaking of heads in the room. One neighbor commented that the planned building is not attractive: “If the clubhouse was being replaced by something really beautiful, it would be an enhancement… [those drawings] look pretty crummy to me.” Later in the meeting, after Rockwell left, neighbor Roger Pence called the planned structure “a strip mall turned on its side.”

Rockwell stated that the public comment period for the project is over, though people can feel free to send her comments if they wish. (She added, somewhat testily, “some of you have emailed me repeatedly… just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t mean I’m not answering you.”) Her time up, she left quickly. The audience was not mollified; later, Pence commented “you heard how many times she told us she was right and we were wrong.”

Andrea Leuschke then came up to present the 17th and McClellan development. The zoning change on the block passed this week, so the site now can be built to 65 feet.

The major concern expressed by those in attendance was the parking access for the proposed building, which would be from the alley between 17th and Beacon, with entrance from South McClellan. The garage door there would provide access to 13-15 parking spaces for residents of the building. Some were concerned that the access at that location would cause traffic backups at Beacon and McClellan, particularly during rush hour. Others mentioned the community’s interest in an “active alley” there, and suggested that having a garage entry and dumpsters on the alley would defeat that plan. “Alleys are service-oriented” and cars must use the alley, was the reply.

A neighbor asked if the garage entrance could be anywhere other than the alley, and was told that the answer is no, both for SDOT reasons and design reasons. Several people expressed an interest in having the entrance on 17th Avenue South instead of the alley. Leuschke said that having a driveway and garage door on that side would negatively affect the residential appearance of the building there. Pence commented “Every residential block in Seattle has driveways. If there are so few cars, it’s just not a big deal (to put the driveway on 17th).”

One neighbor asked whether it would be possible to eliminate parking from the project entirely. Legally, it’s possible; parking is not required for buildings in this location. But Leuschke explained that it is difficult to finance the project if no parking is provided.

Other information about the development was less controversial, though since the parking discussion took the majority of the allotted time, there wasn’t much time to discuss the rest of the plan. Leuschke briefly discussed the developers’ earlier plan to extend the curb at 17th and McClellan to shorten the crosswalk there and provide more planting space. According to Leuschke, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) nixed this plan, expressing concern for buses and emergency vehicles needing to make the turn at that corner.

Members of the audience asked about the size of the units (unfortunately, none will be as large as three bedrooms), whether a retail storefront would wrap around the alley corner with windows (yes), and how many retail storefronts there will be (they are trying to maximize them, but they aren’t sure because with the zoning change “some of the rules have changed too”).

This is the 17th and McClellan proposal as it was presented at the Early Design Guidance meeting late last year. With the zoning now settled, and with feedback from the Design Commission, things have undoubtedly changed since then, but this gives you an idea of what sort of project is being considered for the site.

A neighbor attending the North Beacon Hill Council meeting Tuesday night took a moment to snap a picture of the bright rainbow outside as the meeting started. Photo by Wendi Dunlap/Beacon Hill Blog.

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