Friday, January 17, 2014

Waterfront project riles some neighbors

Shoreline permit application under review 

The owners of the only Madison Park house that actually sits in Lake Washington have filed an application to build a three-story, six-unit apartment building on the dry-land portion of their property at 2346 43rd Avenue E., north of Swing Set Park. Their 2,600 sq. ft. single-family home, built in 1947, sits over water on pilings near the shoreline and is connected to land by a narrow wood walkway.

The lot covers 16,053 sq. ft., only about a quarter of which is dry land, and is 38 feet wide.  Owners Amanda and Matt Rosauer propose keeping the house as is and demolishing their carport, which fronts the sidewalk on 43rd, to accommodate the new multi-family structure.  Below-grade parking is planned for the six new residential units.

The new building, designed by E. Cobb Architects, Inc., will be a LEED-certified, modernistic, concrete/stained- wood/coated-metal structure rising as high as 40 feet above the street level on one side, including the roof enclosure with its stair/elevator access and rooftop planters. The proposed apartments will range in size from 615 to 1050 sq. ft. The final design of the building will ultimately depend on which of three proposed footprints the City approves for the project, ranging from 1,753 sq. ft. to 2,247 sq. ft., depending on the size of required setbacks. Setbacks are the spaces between the property lines and the structure. Two of the three design alternatives require setback “adjustments” (meaning exceptions to City code) on either the south side, or on both sides of the property.

The Rosauers’ application for a Shoreline Substantial Development permit was submitted in early December, prompting several neighboring property owners to register objections. The height of the building, the potential impact on neighborhood parking patterns, and the size and density of the project relative to views are the neighbors’ principal objections.

“This street/area is already overcrowded with multiple dwellings [and] finding a parking spot is difficult,” says one neighboring homeowner in a letter to the City. “This proposed project will block and destroy the view and ruin the ambience in the neighborhood. The house currently on the property…is a non-conforming use. This proposal is an outrageous insult to the neighborhood.”

Another neighboring homeowner echoed concerns about the view, writing, “The applicant’s proposed three-storey apartment building will negatively impact our unit by blocking the afternoon sun which we so enjoy.”

Lawyers for the homeowners of Lakeshore West condominiums (which sits just north of the subject property) commented that the proposed development is on a property that is nonconforming, meaning that it violates current rules for shoreline development. They argue that the City “should require removal of the nonconforming, overwater residence as a condition to the consideration of any new development of the property.”  On behalf of the condo owners, they further objected to requested setback changes and the fact that there are only six on-site parking spaces being provided for the seven residential units (including the existing house).

The lot is zoned for a multi-family structure. In fact, the property is unusual for buildings along 43rd Avenue E. in that it is the only one with a single-family residence on it. The two lots immediately to the south contain a duplex and two single-family residences respectively.  The Lakeshore West building to the north is an overwater complex consisting of over 50 units.  Almost all of the waterside multi-family structures on this stretch of 43rd Avenue E. are nonconforming overwater developments. Due to shoreline management rules currently in play, none of them could be built today. The new apartment project, however, is being proposed for a property where the new structure could conform to current standards. One of the ironies of this story is that some homeowners in non-conforming buildings are opposed to the creation of a new conforming building on the street.

In their filings with the City’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD), the architects for the project state, “The proposed building incorporates and utilizes the positive architectural characteristics of the neighborhood while also mitigating between the drastic and inconsistent difference in scale and character of the two immediate adjacent neighboring buildings.”  One of the objectives they list for this project is: “Develop the site to increase density and provide residential opportunities that reinforce the positive aspects of the current neighborhood, street, and shoreline.”

Of the three alternative schematics provided by the architects to the DPD, the building that requires no "adjustments" is the one that almost certainly would be the least attractive from the street side.

Based on comments from DPD in the public record, it appears that the City is less likely to approve a setback "adjustment" that negatively impacts the residential property to the south, but DPD may be more open to granting a variance on the north side of the property, which borders the Lakeshore West parking lot.  If this "adjustment" were approved, the structure would be similar to the “preferred alternative,” with living spaces in the building opening onto 43rd Avenue E.

While there is a fair amount of negative commentary on the record from immediate or nearby neighbors, the developer himself has been circumspect to this point, adding little to what was submitted to DPD.  When we asked for some input for this article, owner Matt Rosauer responded this way in an email: “The property is zoned to allow additional development and while we respect the right of neighbors to comment, the proposal meets zoning and shoreline requirements and represents a quality design.”

Rosauer is certainly familiar with the City’s process for approving developments, as least as they apply to commercial properties.  He is a principal at a downtown development company which was the developer of several high-profile Seattle projects. Rosauer and his wife purchased their Madison Park in-lake property in 2009.

As part of the review process for shoreline development permits of this kind, DPD may decide to hold a public hearing; but according to Tami Garret, DPD’s planner for this project, the process will just have to take its course.  For a timeline, she referred us to the DPD website, which indicates that a design review period of five to six months is typical for shoreline permits, with six to ten months being the norm for “complex/controversial” permits, though this application may not fall into that category.

Public comments on this project are being accepted by the City until February 7.

[Architectural renderings courtesy of E. Cobb Architects, Inc. Aerial photo from the public record relative to the permit application process.  Lower photo from King County Assessor Records.]

1 comment:

  1. I would love it if you could do a post about the clash of modern architecture in our neighborhood, and how new home owners (and builders) are pushing the boundaries on the size of their house's leading to their fellow neighbors stuck in their overbearing shadow.


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