Clubhouse, station block development both cause controversy

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.

20 thoughts on “Clubhouse, station block development both cause controversy”

  1. Once again, the City ,via Seattle Parks and Recreation, is pushing to spend more of our tax payer’s
    money than necessary and to ” de-Olmstead” another early landmark type of building.

    Of course the golf hierarchy is the only one of Park’s venues that break even or turn a profit.
    My view is to redo the interior and add on to the current structure with similar decor. My further opinion is hike the cart rentals and other services to pay for it. In reality it benefits only a select group of Beacon Hill and Seattle citizens. Too many structures have gone the way of other historic buildings , let’s keep this one, with no strip mall buildings. L L NBH

  2. “Too many structures have gone the way of other historic buildings , let’s keep this one, with no strip mall buildings.”

    I second this. Let’s restore and preserve Seattle’s architecture.

    Ally ways being service oriented only is not open-minded thinking. In Europe, Asia, and other countries, cars use ally ways to access their homes and garages while still being an ‘active’ space for pedestrians and businesses. It can be done right if we study how other people do it.

  3. What a fracking disgrace not even an attempt by Seattle parks to negotiate with the community on this. Things like this really give credence to the conservative argument about unresponsive bureaucrats.

  4. SO here is a question what does our community do next? Cuase I dont want to loose part of my history to developers and uncaring city planners. “More eyes on the street” my ass….

  5. Any sort of enhancement to this area only caters to a select group of people. We are the community that lives here and enjoys the historical design of the current structure. More eyes on the street? Are you kidding me? When my son and other kids were being mugged while walking home from Asa Mercer behind the club house I asked the golf course to attend a meeting to discuss solutions. I didn’t blame them for anything, I just wanted help in protecting our kids. They not only refused to respond to my many e-mails but they didn’t show up for the meeting either. Sorry but they won’t get any support from me because that showed me they were only concerned for themselves and not the community around them.

  6. It is true that golfers are an entity unto themselves, as are avid fans of other sports.
    It is also true that the Jefferson Golf Course is the only venue that let’s Seattle Parks and Recreation break even on costs .

    Ms. Rockwell’s unflattering Park views went over like a lead balloon at the meeting, with apparently Park’s views being “the public,who are footing the bill, be damned “, we’re going to spend money we don’t have, to rebuild this golf venue anyway.
    While there is monies left in the Park’s levy, I feel most people, excluding probably the golfing group, would rather see the vintage, nearly historic, clubhouse kept as a landmark.

    This can be done by renovation of the interior, perhaps with added-on room to make it
    more rewarding for both the public and golfers such as a basic improved restaurant and
    other amenities.
    Parks has done well with the levy money provided them, but spending for a project
    that may look like a “back to the future” building is not. We should opt for keeping the
    exterior Club House as it is, for future generations. L L

  7. Lenny, you keep saying that your tax dollars are paying for this and things like “the public, who are footing the bill, be damned”. In contrast, I have consistently heard, and seen laid out in the now out of date Master Plan financial analysis, that the funding provided by the city will be returned by golf revenue, with interest. If you have information that shows that City tax payers like you will be paying more than a nominal Parks or Finance administrative cost in the long term, I’d like to hear about that.

  8. So, other than ‘I think the new design is ugly and the old one pretty’ what are the objections to the new golf clubhouse? While I get the sense there is a lot of dissatisfaction I’m not sure exactly what the issues are outside of aesthetic preference for the 1936 building.

  9. The consensus of a few people at the meeting seemed to think Ms.
    Rockwell’s attitude was “we’re going ahead with this” my words were
    “the public be damned”.
    It seems quite a stretch for Parks and Recreation to think that building
    a new club house and related could be paid from greens,cart fees etc.
    Those must be some gigantic fees,
    The Parks Levy funds to do this project come from the City/county RE taxes
    that we voters approved. It is not a “nominal” cost.
    Further “returned with interest ? Parks and Recreation is apparently
    “breaking even” does not leave much profit to pay for the proposed
    huge building project for decades.
    Many of we Beacon Hillers are opting for retaining the old,nearly historic
    Club House. My opinion again, is redo the interior modernization and add on if
    necessary ,keeping the esthetic “old” look,at conceivably half the cost or less.
    Public funds for this, as proposed, benefits relatively few, compared to
    work being done in building and maintaining Seattle Parks overall.

    I have been repetitive enough on this subject , I have no further comment,maybe.

  10. Here is the 2009 financial analysis:

    Details of note:

    1.7% (estimated) rise in golf fees as “indirect benefit” of proposed project. pg. 5.

    2.Increased maintenance costs associated with the driving range ($100,000) per year, and the larger clubhouse facility ($30,000 per year} pg. 30.

    3. Additional borrowing in the future to pay for projects left out of this round of construction like the cart paths, 18 hole course improvements, perimeter trails, maintenance facilities. pg. 7.

    The current bond and future borrowing will all be paid by golf fees. If the proposed plan goes through, a 7% rise in golf fees is likely a low estimate.

    Golf is in a ten year decline, and the local market is saturated from over expansion in the 90’s.and early 2000’s.
    If new golfers do not materialize, or Seattle cannot lure golfers from competitors, the existing golf community will be left holding the bag. Fee increases will be the only option.

    On the other hand, the renovation option ( at $1.5 million savings) from the 2009 Golf Master Plan (pgs. 33-38.)
    will produce a Seattle landmark heritage site, in a working golf course with a perfectly restored 1936 WPA clubhouse situated in a 100 year old Olmsted Park, and a world class history as unique as Beacon Hill. A rebuilt driving range with a see through wall will open up views to the Sound from the putting greens or anyone walking down the street. A roof top deck with seating and tables above the driving range will allow anyone to enjoy the spectacular views from Jefferson Park.

    Better yet, the renovation option will leave $1.5 million over to do all those other projects now, like improving the 18, and avoid fee increases into the future.

  11. @ Patrick I actually love contemporary architecture, that being said I don’t want to be inundated with it. We as society need to preserve some of our heritage and if there is a place to do it is with the Beacon hill Gold Club (not the Denny’s in ballard.)

    Rehabbing the old building will also more environmentally friendly( read the study not the blog post); something “liberals” in Seattle love to brag out about, but then again most Seattle Liberals are self serving hypocrites but that is debate for another time; as well as more cost effective. Saving the building will leave us with something we can pass down to our kids and grand kids that can be a tool about the past.

    The woman’s from Parks and Rec attitude was disgusting for a public official (something we seem to be seeing more and more of also) and the fact that parks and rec is unresponsive to the local community speaks of greater issues to come. Frankly if SP&R is unwilling to budge on this I wonder who they already gave the construction contract (and money) to and who is personally benefiting either in SP&R or on someone else in the city goverment.

  12. Monster, one of the problems with this process is that we seem to forget that there is a Neighorhood Plan on file that proposes something not too far from what Parks came up with. The 1999 Neighborhood Plan recommends what is referred to as the “Active Edge” concept for Jefferson Park. The plan is available at the link below; look at the Section 4 file for a map (pg 57) and a description (pg 61) of the golf change proposals:

    The language in the Plan describing the proposed changes to the golf facilities include:

    “Active Edge proposes significant investments for the golf facilities most commonly used by youth, beginning players, and seniors: the driving range and short-nine course. In this design, the driving range is relocated south of the existing facility, near the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center……As a part of the reconstruction of the driving range, a new clubhouse facility is included at the south end of the range. The entire facility is modeled on the highly successful new Interbay facility, a 240-yard driving range constructed and operated by Family Golf of Seattle, a concessionaire under contract to the Parks Department.”

    It isn’t specifically stated, but the map shows that the existing clubhouse and putting greens end up in the middle of the new driving range, meaning they would have been demolished. It is important to note that many of the contributors to this concept were also at this weeks meeting, and are now pushing for preservation of the clubhouse. Although, to add to the confusion it was just last week that “Active Edge” was again proposed as a way to mitigate the safety issue of balls flying over the back fence toward the community center.

    So, there seems to be a major double standard with respect to whether the clubhouse is worth saving. If the plan results in a net reduction of golf acreage, it seems perfectly acceptable to demolish the clubhouse and replace it with something modern (like Interbay) placed in a different location. But, since the City didn’t allow “Active Edge” golf components to go forward and the clubhouse/driving range is staying in the existing location, the clubhouse is suddenly too historic to tear down.

    The clubhouse you see today has more of a visual connection to the 1970 remodel than when the clubhouse was new in 1936. The clubhouse was remodeled in 1970 so extensively, that it is sometimes refered to as a “new” clubhouse. It bears little resemblance to the original 1936 structure (which was not even the original golf clubhouse), except maybe the overall outline of the structure viewed from a distance. Even in 1970, the 1936 clubhouse was too small to serve all of the golf functions, thus the remodel, yet what Mark describes seems to take us back to what the building was in 1936, including the scale, which just won’t work.

    The push to save the clubhouse is less about saving a marginally historic structure from demolition and more about limiting the spending of golf money on constructing a new and appropriately scaled golf facility that might actually result in Jefferson becoming a greater destination for City golfers.

  13. Thank you for that information but I grew up here and to me its a…. institution of the community (a much better one then the Ballard Dennys..) But If it was rebuilt in the 70s why can’t it be done again? Why not expand it? Some of the city libraries in the neighborhoods have received amazing modernizations so there is no reason it cannot be done to Golf club

  14. Chris,

    Did you miss the fact that the “Active Edge Concept” requires moving the entire driving range facility to the South, in the location on the 9 where Parks proposes now to put a parking lot?
    Why? Orienting the driving range to the south will stop golf balls permanently from hitting the community center. There are 60 holes in the gymnasium. Before the taller poles and nets went up there were 28.

    Active Edge is only a concept plan. The clubhouse could still be saved in further planning by moving the driving range on to the location of the parking lot in the proposed design.

    This is a moot point anyway. The city council and Parks rejected the community preferred option of Active Edge. So the community center will continue to be pummeled with golf balls for another 50 years, and we won’t even get a “fore!”, or a complimentary hardhat.

    My previous comment mentioned nothing about moving the driving range. I am suggesting a rebuilt single story deck on the driving range, with a roof top deck with seating and food and beverage services.(Cabana bar anyone?) open to the general public, as well as golfers.

    History for a community is like the memory of a Person. The history of Jefferson Park gives us an identity as a community. A community without a history is like a person with amnesia. Look how many people use the web now for ancestral research. They are trying to find their identity. The identity of Beacon Hill is contained in the Olmsted traditions, the classic landscape, the WPA clubhouse, the rich history of Golf at Jefferson Park. Jefferson Park is a living history that our community can use and learn from everyday. We do not have to go looking for it on the internet. It is right in front of us.

  15. Mark, I was actually referring the email message you sent last week that was intended for DPD (I don’t know if it went to DPD or not) in which you suggested moving the driving range to the south to prevent balls hitting the community center, and referenced the “Active Edge” concept from the Neighborhood Plan.

    I fully understand that Active Edge proposes to move the driving range from its current location to the south. It’s also obvious to me that this can’t be done without either moving the clubhouse or ending up with a really short driving range. There just isn’t enough space. That is why the existing clubhouse ends up roughly mid-range in the sketch in the Neighborhood Plan.

    The one history you are forgetting is that of long time Jefferson golfers who have been promised improvements and fixes over the years only to get repeatedly pushed off. Now they have a plan in place that will provide a clean, working facility properly scaled for the number of golfers who will use it plus the number of park users who might wander over for refreshments after a soccer game, etc. Attempting to recreate 1936 doesn’t get us the scale necessary, and trying to do both, tied to a new driving range gets us a Dr. Seuss influenced sprawling mess that doesn’t have an efficient footprint. We might as well rebuild the original 1915 clubhouse right off Beacon as a monument to the real origins of Jefferson golf, and create a separate clubhouse/range facility designed around the scale needed for today.

    Speaking of Jefferson Golf history, 52 year old Fred Couples is sharing the lead at the Masters after 2 days, 20 years after he won it in 1992. Go Boom Boom!

  16. Patrick said: “…other than ‘I think the new design is ugly and the old one pretty’ what are the objections to the new golf clubhouse?”

    I wanted to respond to this, as well as just put in my two cents here, by saying I think many of us here on Beacon Hill fear the “gentrification/modernization” monsters that take adorable little communities like Fremont and turn them into funky modern hell-holes with no parking and residents packed in like sardines. These same monsters reduce our brick and mortar and hardwoods to synthetic amalgams of fiberglass and various plastics.

    I sort of barfed out that last bit, but what I’m trying to say is: for me, yes, it’s about aesthetics. It’s also about history, and what makes our neighborhood OUR neighborhood. It’s about what fits in here, and what doesn’t.

    I read a comment on this topic recently, a woman shared the story of her parents who met at the Jefferson Park Golf Clubhouse and went on to marry and have children who grew up here on Beacon Hill.

    There’s a difference between updating and demolishing. If you take what’s there and replace it with something completely different, we lose history. If we do that with crack houses, it makes people happy. If we do it with the charming little clubhouse restaurant where our parents met, we get defensive.

    If I were the couple who met at the clubhouse all those years ago, a visit to the proposed [hideous] modern thing (for lack of better adjectives inspiring me at present) may as well be a visit to the condos atop the former Denny’s in Ballard. It’s not the same place. It’s not even a ghost of it. And another Beacon Hill gem–whether built in 1893, 1936, or 1965–bites the dust.

    I will miss the old clubhouse terribly when/if it’s gone. The design for the new clubhouse doesn’t fit the neighborhood AT ALL. It would be a great loss to Beacon Hill, and the new addition would be about as charming as the VA hospital. Sure, it may be necessary, but is it necessary for it to clash so completely with the surrounding area?

    To me, Beacon hill is the PacMed building, the old brick apartment buildings, El Centro, and even the light rail station. It’s the golf course, the fire station, the community center, and Red Apple market, the old Tudor and Craftsman homes and even the newer “modern” condos, those which were designed to actually look like they belong here, rather than stick out like a big ugly sore thumb as I believe the new clubhouse, the current design, would.

    Aesthetics are about more than simply what something looks like. It’s about how it makes you feel.

    It’s just my opinion, but there is nothing sublime about the design for the new clubhouse. It’s not a work of art. I don’t know what it is. But it doesn’t “feel” right to me. Not for Beacon Hill.

  17. I said I had no further comment, but I lied!
    Jessica’s views are spot one.
    I had printed out pics of the 2 early buildings of the Club House but they must have disappeared in the blogosphere. the 1919 club house burned down, and the 1920 one seems to have some resemblance to our modern day one, but even nicer.

    Again ,to repeat, the whole golfing complex serves a relative few, and from what I’ve read, the future for golfing is declining as future generations come on and invent other types of sports.
    So even though Monster in a few blogs back has managed to say ” the blogs from the ” left” should apparently be ignored and the “hypocritical left” should read the study,but that should be a debate at a later time”. That rhetoric has no place in in a venue of this kind, and leads one to wonder what “side” he is promoting ,as in the opposite being “the right”?

    Again ,not being in the elite group of being a golfer, I and many it seem to be for keeping the heritage of this not so old clubhouse for we, the general populace.

    Best Wishes for the Easter Holiday , LENNY, N B H

  18. im a unabashed conservative, but that being said i have some progressive and collectivist beliefs im also a tax payer and long time (Long before the current gentrification began) member of this community and it will take a act of god to get me to leave.

  19. LOL LOL LOL !

    Has anyone heard about the progress of The Oak and T&D . The Oak must have it’s licenses
    by now, as does the Tippe & Drague .

    Early on we heard estimates of May. A lot of things take time, as does anything built basically
    from “scratch” and done well.

    I’m sure our expectations will be rewarded. L L

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