Stone34 Design Gets Approval

Updated Thursday, May 4, 4:25 PM with a quote from Hey, Skanska & Brooks, down in front! (see below for the quote).

The Seattle Times reports that the city’s Design Review Board has approved Skanska’s current design proposal for Stone34. I haven’t seen anything new on the Hey, Skanska & Brooks, down in front! Facebook page, but I did see the following update posted on the Stone34 page:

The Design Review Board recommended approval of Stone34 and affirmed that the current design meets the City’s Design Guidelines – your great comments and letter of support were KEY to making that happen, thank you!

Last night, at our 4th Design Review for this project, the Board heard loud and clear from the community that this is a beautiful building, an important deep green project, and a wonderful community asset. The DRB was appreciative of the design team’s responsiveness to the feedback of the board, and the community.

We plan to continue the dialog with you and there will be many more opportunities for updates and additional feedback as we move forward – stay tuned!


Here’s what the folks on the Hey, Skanska & Brooks, down in front! Facebook page had to say:

Many thanks to all the neighbors who showed up in force at the various Design Review Board meetings. While the Board decided to approve the design, your voice made a big difference in the process in three huge ways:

1) We demonstrated that the building as it is currently being proposed is “controversial” as it was described in a Seattle Times article yesterday.

2) The community outpouring likely helped the Design Review Board require that Skanska chisel away at the top floors. While the building is still way too massive for this neighborhood, it’s definitely better than the original design.

3) In spite of the massive efforts by Skanska to sway the Board, the vote was close. Originally the votes was 2 to 2 on granting the departures for the extra 20 feet. (The chair changed his vote so the final result was 3 -1). The final vote to recommend the project was 3 to 1.

Getting the design approved through the DRB is only one step in the process. At this point, the city council has still not passed the legislation that would allow the height departure.

The report in the Seattle Times that the “Board assumed” the amendments would pass is not entirely correct. The Board was told by DPD that they had to assume that the legislation would pass for its review of the project. Even then it is not clear what amendments the Board was to assume were in effect. Between the third and fourth DRB meetings, Skanska/Brooks/DPD changed the proposed amendments to eliminate the requirement that the departures not conflict with adopted design guidelines!

The neighborhood still has ample opportunity to make a difference! There are still many issues with this building that need to be addressed. So far, Skanska has not adequately demonstrated that the departure is warranted.

The pending legislation that would allow this departure states that Skanska must demonstrate that the departure would result in a development that better meets the intent of the adopted design guidelines or that better meets the goals of the Living Building Challenge.

We know that a taller building does not better meet the DRB guidelines – especially the one that states that projects should be “compatible with the scale of development for the surrounding area and should provide a sensitive transition to near-by, less intensive zones.”

An 82-foot building in an area zoned for 45-feet – and within feet of a designated shoreline zoned for 30 feet – does not lend itself to a “sensitive transition.” The minor setbacks that Skanska has established cannot do enough height and bulk mitigation to satisfy the DRB guidelines.

We also know that a taller building will not result in a development that better meets the goals of the Living Building Challenge. The LBC should not be allowed to be used as a pretext for obtaining unrelated special privileges in conflict with existing land use law.

Stay tuned!

(Hat tip to Nancy M. for the heads-up!)

  1. Neighbor2You said,

    Thanks, Margaret and Nancy.

    As with the posts on Wallyhood, I appreciate being able to read the variety of perspectives regarding this proposed development…with the understanding that all of them will reflect some interest or another. The sources you’ve included definitely cover the range and help make that possible, so it looks like I’ve got more reading to do…thanks again!

    Wed, May 2 at 2:24 pm
  2. coolio said,

    thank you

    I thought it was going to be a 60 foot building instead of 45. I wonder if others wer eunaware of this huge departure from established guidelines. HMM tall as the Space Needle clouding our streets, cutting off light, trees, bird access, clean air, sky views.. just to name a few.

    Lies in planning.. money still talks
    But neighbotrs can balk

    Thu, May 3 at 4:46 pm
  3. Ralph said,

    What I loved about the meeting was the Fremont Dock Company packing the event with the people who rent their buildings. Even with that it was about a 60/40 split with the majority in favor of the building. I don’t pretend to understand the gritty details of the project but something is definitely fishy about this process.

    Beware: Just because you pant it green doesn’t make it good

    Thu, May 3 at 6:02 pm
  4. Ryan said,

    I think it is pretty amazing that so many people showed up in support. Usually, just the opponents to a project are particularly vocal. It was also interesting how many people from lower wallingford (me included) spoke in favor of the building. I think a lot of us see this as a great opportunity for our neighborhood to be part of something special.

    Thu, May 3 at 6:22 pm
  5. Neighbor2You said,

    Interesting stuff. As always, I hope that advocacy groups will become more sophisticated and accurate in their writing. The entry from “Hey, Skanska” refers to “neighbors” and “the neighborhood,” without making it clear that they actually mean “those in the neighborhood who oppose aspects of the structure.”

    The “neighborhood,” which I define by geography, has diverse points of view. I like that. And as a resident of the lower Wallingford neighborhood, I am pleased with the revised design and remain supportive of the project.

    Thu, May 3 at 7:30 pm
  6. Katherine said,

    @coolio. Here’s the scoop regarding the confusion about the height of the proposed buidling. The proposed height is 65 feet plus 17 feet of rooftop features. That brings the total to 82 feet. Hope that helps.

    Thu, May 3 at 10:07 pm
  7. coolio said,

    Rooftop features break up skyline, blcok sun, air. divert birds, create grey shadows.. 82 feet for a building in an area w/ a 45 foot code is unacceptable no matter how you paint it, pretend its good for you. Its still a spoon of sugar covered glunk.

    Fri, May 4 at 12:52 am
  8. Neighbor2You said,

    Again, I find the wealth of material here to be very useful for understanding the details of the proposed project and what the various neighborhood opinions may be.

    As to implying dishonesty on any level on anybody’s part (even in “you…pretend its (sic) good for you,”), well, not so helpful, as that shifts attention from the subject itself to aspersions about what other people think or feel or how they conduct themselves in the world. I don’t think that advances either effective communication or collective understanding….and it’s another reason I don’t need to know someone’s full name or affiliation. It’s the content of the posts that matters foremost to me.

    Still, it’s a neighborhood blog, with the benefits and shortcomings that come with that territory. Above all, I’m glad it’s available as our neighborhood changes, and I see it as my responsibility to read others’ posts–especially the ones expressing a viewpoint different from my own–with thought and care.

    Fri, May 4 at 5:43 am
  9. prop 3 said,

    This bird diversion thing has got me worried. Would a 45′ building with rooftop features divert fewer birds?

    Fri, May 4 at 9:36 am
  10. TRW said,

    So under the current zoning, would a 45′ building + 17′ of rooftop features be allowed?

    Fri, May 4 at 11:29 am
  11. Michele said,

    I’m concerned that they will use the “living building”-ness of it to get the variance. Then not meet enough requirements to truly classify as a living building. But then the building is just “there” and then there is nothing we can do about it. I’m still not sure that we would be a part of something special. Just witnesses to a company getting a building made with a variance that benefits them.

    I was out walking the other night and looked over to where the building would be. From where I was (looking west), it seemed a building that high would look like almost even with the aurora bridge (view wise).

    I like the idea posted in another thread about floating a balloon up to the height of the proposed building, so residents can really see what that kind of height looks and feels like.

    Fri, May 4 at 10:13 pm
  12. Nancy M said,

    Remember when an artist installed scaffolding on the Waiting for the Interurban sculpture that demonstrated how the proposed buildings to the south would block Fremont sidewalk views to the water and severely limit access? Early 90s.

    Something concrete (even balloons) gives shape to proposed form since many people aren’t trained in reading architectural plans and many such plans can be misleading. And greenwashed.

    More effort from the developer to prove otherwise would be appreciated!

    Sat, May 5 at 7:43 am
  13. Katherine said,

    @Michele and Nancy. It is indeed helpful to get a concrete idea of exactly waht 65 feet means (plus the 17-feet of rooftop features). One way to visualize it is to take a look at the telephone pole at 35th and Stone. Sixty-five feet is almost 20 feet taller than the pole and that does not include the rooftop features.

    And @Michele. We already know that this building will not be a certified Living Building seeing that they are only aiming to meet 70% of the goals the Living Building Pilot Program. Skanska is honest about this when you asked. But it is true that if Skanska falls short of what they have promised — the 70% — we are still stuck with a building 44% larger than others buildings made to current code (45 feet). If they hit less than 60% of the goals, they can be fined UP TO 5% of the building costs depending on the degree of compliance.

    Sat, May 5 at 3:02 pm
  14. coolio said,

    When they pay th efine will that automatically shorten the buildin gheight/

    Or will they just pay a fine and the too tall out of compliance building remain?

    Sun, May 6 at 7:33 am
  15. Katherine said,

    @Coolio. They would just pay the fine. The building height would remain.

    Sun, May 6 at 4:40 pm
  16. Donn said,

    While it seems kind of laughable to talk about a fine, as though there were the slightest chance that after all their efforts on behalf of this project, the city would find any fault with it after it’s constructed … anyway, while they may have a reasonably clear definition of the criteria related to the potential fine, we should bear in mind that the energy consumption and other green issues in a building are substantially under the control of the primary occupants, who have an ongoing, perpetual responsibility to exercise all those green features and use the building as specified in the design docs. I don’t think anyone’s going to be monitoring that, it’s `honor system.’

    So not only has the bar been lowered, not only is the fine trivially small, not only is enforcement dubious, but it won’t apply to the most likely point of failure, the occupant.

    Sun, May 6 at 6:04 pm
  17. Abdul said,

    Stone34 adds to the ‘Wallingford Wall’ – enclosing both sides of N 34th St from Aurora to Pacific with a hallway of height. The increase ripples north along view corridors as redevelopment continues and future projects reach for view. At the last DRB meeting I heard, “south Lake Union got theirs, and now we want ours.” Gahhh…If I’d wanted to live in South Lake Union, I would have moved there!

    One of my former neighbors, was on the WCC, endured the transfer station noise & smell, finally moved because of that wall, after an impassioned letter to city council pleading for the views not to be screwed. Prescient letter. That blocking high-tech research building sits vacant.

    Keeping the transfer station height to existing zoning seems wasted effort now. Avtech’s moving, and their former light industrial/marine site (including the former Grandma’s Cookies) will likely go residential.

    A pilot project achieving 70% or less of the goal should not be a pilot project. How many of the other living building pilots aspire to that level of mediocrity? Shame on our volunteer design review board. They give 100% of what’s asked for and in return get much less. There are always changes between permit approval and construction completion.

    The Board’s advisory approval is given way too much deference. Submit a project, make up your own rules, and get what you want. Just call it ‘deep green’ (insert your own definition). Cities have to follow established standards and adopted code to approve projects. Seattle City Council hasn’t scheduled a vote on the speculative changes – not even penciled in due to an anticipated lawsuit, according to the city’s living building coordinator.

    Kudos to the Skanska team, finding a mostly new, innovative way to alter the city and neighborhood approval processes on the fly, while evolving a design. This continues the circular reasoning – the DRB approves a project predicated on unpublicized, unapproved rule changes; the city points to the DRB and pushes approval through citing the Board’s decision…and so it goes.

    The take-away lesson: when permanently horse-trading city-wide approval processes and neighborhood view corridors for jobs, a prospective tenant doesn’t have to stay – or even move in.

    Thu, May 10 at 10:29 am
  18. Ralph said,

    Well said.

    Fri, May 11 at 7:22 am
  19. coolio said,

    oh abdul, you fool,
    those who wish business and big buildings will have much to say to you
    I came out of my posting ban to say this..
    back to the ban

    Fri, May 11 at 8:05 am
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