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Friday, December 08, 2000

Call To Order

Chairman McDonald called the meeting to order at 7:35 PM.

Roll Call

Present Commissioners: Dawson, Laszlo, Sandler, and Chairman McDonald Absent Commissioners: Bryant, Glick, and Wittman

Staff Present

Staff: Kathy Harbert


November 8, 2000 and November 15, 2000

November 15, 2000 Minutes Amended as Follows: On page 3 (in the last paragraph before “Meeting Adjourned”), after the first sentence: shall be added: The Commissioners responded in agreement of the concept analysis. Commissioner Sandler noted that the comments of the Commissioners should not be construed as “agreement”, but that serious questions had been raised by the Commissioners as to project scale, traffic flow, the relationship of retail spaces to the plaza area, the availability, use, and accessibility to the plaza by the general public, and the form and modulation of the “presented” building masses. Commissioner Dawson motioned to approve the November 8, 2000 minutes as is and the November 15, 2000 minutes with the above amendment. Commissioner Laszlo seconded the motion. Motion passed 4-0.

Regular Business

ACTION ITEM: (1) File DSR0007-002

APPLICANT: Mr. Woon T. (W.T.) Cheung, WT Americ Development, Inc.

SUBJECT: Second Study Session for the Review of Revised Plans for a 25-unit and one Retail Mixed Use Proposal on a Long and Narrow Site

LOCATION: 2836 78th Avenue

APPLICANT: Prior to the applicant’s presentation, discussion took place regarding the appropriateness of study sessions. Commissioner Sandler questioned the validity of tonight’s study session, since the proposal already had a prior study session and one before that with a different architect. He added, study sessions are not for design approval, as it appears design advice is being given instead of conceptual review. Chairman McDonald commended Commissioner Sandler’s point and added in the past not more than one study session has taken place for a single project. He agreed that that further review should be part of the public process. Ms. Harbert pointed out the request for the second study session was by the applicant and staff decided to allow it. Commissioner Sandler noted he has decided not to comment on the presentation. Commissioner Laszlo expressed the applicant should be able to present the proposal, as it is on the agenda. Chairman McDonald stated the study session offers the opportunity for informal comments. He continued, responses given on this project by the Design Commission have been somewhat specific and, as a worse case scenario, the applicant could say at a public hearing that they have done everything the Commission has asked for. He continued speaking of specifics is not the full intent of the comments; a more global look at the project would be more appropriate. Chairman McDonald agreed with Commissioner Sandler that any further comments should be made in a public hearing. Commissioner Dawson added study session guidelines need to be established. Commissioner Sandler agreed and added that formal recommendations are occurring at study sessions and that is not the intent. Project landscape architect, Maryann Kirby, spoke as a former Design Commissioner, stating the advantage of having a board to work with because of the interaction that occurs between applicant, staff and Commissioners. Chairman McDonald stated the Design Commission is still working with applicants through the public hearing process. Commissioner Sandler added that words from the public need to be heard before guidance is given to the design of structures. Commissioner Laszlo stated the applicant should have the right to another study session if requested. Commissioner Sandler argued no that is incorrect; the Design Commission makes that decision. Commissioner Sandler continued the criteria for the design should be the focus of a study session. Mr. Cheung stated that comments and opinions are requested for the study session tonight. Discussion continued on when a study session is appropriate versus a public hearing. Chairman McDonald concluded the discussion with the recommendation that the Design Commission listen to the preliminary changes for Park Terrace tonight because they are on the agenda; however, no specific suggestions or review will be made. The meeting was then opened up to a presentation by landscape architect, Mary Ann Kirby. Ms. Kirby expressed the review will be brief. Modulation was added as vertical elements, including color changes. She noted the numerical changes noted in Ms. Harbert’s memo found in the packet sent out. She then opened it up for comments. Chairman McDonald suggested showing the adjacent buildings on the elevations and perspectives. He asked for clarification on why there are trees placed on the second level along the street frontage. Ms. Kirby stated they contribute to the streetscape and provide greenery in a high-density use. Discussion continued regarding the six-story appearance from the street (even though the building technically is five stories), and how the proposal maximizes the lot and building height coverage. Chairman McDonald concluded the study session with recommending the project be scheduled for the next agreeable regular Design Commission meeting. Ms. Harbert stated Mr. Cheung and her would work that out together. Mr. Cheung thanked the Commissioners.

(No Public Testimony or Commissioners’ Discussion because the Meeting was a Study Session.)

DISCUSSION ITEM #2 and #3: Staff Update on Building Height Code Interpretation and Open Discussion on Mixed Use Proportions in the Town Center District

DISCUSSION: Bryan Cairns, Council Liaison, joined the discussion. Ms. Harbert began by handing out copies of Part 1. Development Requirements, Town Center District Development and Design Requirements, an outline of the code’s “shalls” and “shoulds”, and Richard Hart’s draft code interpretation of number of stories/building height in the Town Center. Ms. Harbert spoke of the Council presentation Mr. Hart and herself did on December 4, 2000, explaining the history of how the code came about and current projects. She presented her copy of the agenda bill for that Council workshop. Chairman McDonald suggested all the Commissioners receive a copy; Ms. Harbert agreed to send those out in addition to sending the above mentioned copies to the absent Commissioners. Discussion began with the question of the desired quantity of retail use downtown, addressing the question of how much retail was envisioned when the code was created and the years before. Councilman Cairns suggested a meeting, including the Design and Planning Commissions to review the whole CBD as to how much retail the Town Center desires. Quantifying how much retail use shall be required downtown was discussed and rather or not specific percentages should be required. Commissioner Sandler pointed out that the depth of proposed retail spaces have the potential to be very minimal (i.e. the 150 sq. ft. espresso shop). Discussion followed on what kind of control is there for the size of proposed retail space, and how it relates to the amount of retail space is replaced when redevelopment occurs. The discussion lead to the building height limits in the Town Center. Ms. Harbert summarized the code interpretation Mr. Hart had made for determining the height of buildings. Clarification was made on the technical interpretation of what constitutes a “story” (the UBC definition). Commissioner Sandler pointed out that Park Terrace is six stories when viewed from the street level. He added the public would see that it is six stories and not consider the technical definition and how the building complies with the zoning code. Discussion followed that the view from the street in terms of how many stories a building has needs to be reviewed and possibly have a code amendment made. Commissioner Laszlo pointed out that caution needs to be considered when a project meets zoning and building codes. Ms. Harbert presented a few of the “shalls” and “shoulds”. Examples included Element 1.a. Scale and Element 1.b. Form that were discussed regarding the authority potential the code gives to the Design Commission in regards to bulk impacts and views from the street. Chairman McDonald noted the Commissioners have had past discussion on referencing the code during their meetings, and that possibly they should be doing that. The discussion was brought to an end with the following suggestions: Chairman McDonald suggested a study model be made for the Town Center, so that each applicant can drop in their proposal. He continued the model could be made very simple with the bulk of each building, and maybe high school students could be involved. Concurrence was made that a model was a good idea. Ms. Harbert stated she would look into it. Chairman McDonald added how the model would benefit everyone, including the public, in understanding how each property creates the whole of Town Center. Councilman Cairns suggested that Ms. Harbert write up a summary of the concerns discussed to include the possible quantification of retail space related to mixed use projects and five stories seen from the street level versus technical provisions of the code. He continued the summary could be presented as an agenda item at a CBD subcommittee, including a representative from the Planning and Design Commission. Everyone concurred with the idea. Public at the meeting included Steve Weigand, reporter for the Mercer Island Reporter, and Mr. W.T. Cheung.

Other Business


Meeting Adjourned:
10:30 pm

Council Liaison Report:

Next Regular Meeting:

OTHER BUSINESS: Commissioner Laszlo will be absent for the next meeting.

[Important Note: The proceedings of the Design Commission meeting were recorded on tape and are on file with the Development Services Group. The complete agenda and official minutes of this meeting are also available from the Development Services Group.]


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