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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Call To Order:

Chairman Glick called the regularly scheduled Design Commission meeting to order at 7:35 PM in the Council Chambers, 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, Washington. 


Roll Call:

Carl Bryant, Chairman Fred Glick, Callie Ridolfi, Vice-Chairman Norman Sandler, and George Wittman were present.  Commissioners Bryan Caditz and Marcia Dawson were absent. 


Staff Present:

Richard Hart, Development Services Director and Shelley Krueger, Associate Planner.



Commissioner Bryant moved, Vice-Chairman Sandler seconded, to approve the minutes of March 24, 2004.  The minutes were approved by a vote of 5-0.


Regular Business:


1.   Study Session (No action to be taken): The applicant, Sound Transit, proposes to construct a new garage on the existing Park and Ride site at 7800 North Mercer Way.  The new garage will include 450 parking stalls on two levels, a pedestrian plaza, a kiss and ride area, bus lanes, and landscaping changes. 


Chairman Glick introduced the project and asked for a staff report. 


Richard Hart, Director of Development Services, summarized the staff report.  Mr. Hart noted that this is a Study Session and is intended to provide the applicant with direction for the developing design.  The applicant will complete the preliminary and final design review processes in the future.  The purpose of the Study Session is for the Commissioners to make suggestions and the community to have an opportunity to comment on the design of the project.  Mr. Hart described the project regarding site design, existing conditions, lot shape, and circulation.  He also explained the sensitivities of the design on the north and east facades, as well as the bus and facility traffic issues addressed in the design of the south side.  He described the vegetative treatment of the upper level of the garage and the improvements the applicant has proposed above minimum standards. 


Eric Beckman of Sound Transit, 401 South Jackson St, Seattle, WA; Larry Yuan (Principal Designer) of YnA, 501 Eastlake Ave E, #100, Seattle WA; and Rob Fazio (Landscape Architect) of Nakano Associates, 300 East Pike St, Seattle, WA represented the applicant.  These representatives summarized the overall site layout, the garage and plaza design, exterior materials and treatments, landscaping, and the surrounding land uses.  The representatives explained how the design intent on the north and east sides was to respond to the concerns of adjacent residents. 


Eric Beckman explained that the team is working with URS, a consultant firm, to complete the NEPA review and a 30% design.  Larry Yuan described the sensitivity of the design to the residents on the north and east sides.  The design addresses their concerns with landscaping and a variety of façade materials, including a green screen composed of vine plant material and open lattice work.  The wall on the upper floor of the garage will be higher to block headlights from adjacent properties and a perforated metal panel on the south side will provide a forum for public art. 


Rob Fazio explained that the landscape plan intends to restore and salvage existing planting and soften the buffers.  21,000 square feet of planting will be added to the site and trees will be installed in planters on the upper level of the garage.  The 42” diameter Douglas Fir in the SE corner of the site will be retained as an anchor. 

Public improvements include a public plaza with a kiosk to provide notice of events in Mercer Island and for Sound Transit, bike lockers for bike commuters, and an opportunity for public art.  The west corner will be enhanced, possibly with an informal picnic area or pond and plantings. 


In response to a question from the Commission, representatives stated that the design group has been working with the Arts Council, specifically Julie Berger. 


Other Commissioner concerns included the perceived mass of the wall on the northwest side of the site, which results from the site slope.  In addition, concerns were raised over continuity of design.  Some suggested that the green screen be used in other areas on all sides of the façade to tie the design together.  This could also be used to emphasize the south side of the site as a terminus for the end of 80th Ave SE.  There were also positive comments regarding the sensitivity of the design on each side. 


Applicant representatives responded to the concerns by stating that neighborhood feedback had driven much of the design on the east and north sides.  They are open to design improvements and would like to use public art and light fixtures to emphasize the site and create continuity in design. 


Further comments from the Commissioners included design emphasis on the pedestrian/bicycle interaction on the south side of the site, where the I-90 trail interacts with pedestrians waiting for the bus.  Applicant representatives responded that the traffic studies suggest incorporating bicycles into North Mercer Way vehicle traffic.  The design will examine different use zones with paving treatment. 


Commissioners commented on the circular area of bicycle lockers/comfort station, which separates the sidewalk and the plaza.  This design separates transit users waiting for the bus from plaza amenities, but provides a place to relax away from the busses.  The design will also incorporate standards Sound Transit covered shelters for bus patrons.  The shelters are 9’ long x 7’ wide x 5’ deep, have windscreens on three sides, and are open to the street. 


The public plaza will incorporate bike lockers which can be rented for 4 or 8 hour periods, possibly incorporating Smart Cards.  A rough rule of thumb was used to determine the number of eight bike lockers.  Commissioners suggested the possibility of more screening for the bus driver comfort station, since the bike lockers are sited directly outside the station. 


The Design Commission asked about the potential for increasing the design budget to provide more detailed paving and items to tie the design to Mercer Island.  The Commission asked if money is available from the City to supplement this project.  Richard Hart responded that this project is not a City facility and therefore there is no budget for such a project.  He stated that the Design Commission may send a representative to City Council to ask for money to supplement the project, but it is unlikely there will be extra money for such an event.  A better course of action is to require adequate design from the applicant.  Larry Yuan responded that even without money from Mercer Island, they will work to design the edges for residents and users. 


Other comments from the Design Commission included:

§         The overall streetscape corridor on both sides incorporating the impact of the new Park and Ride design

§         The design is headed in the right direction, providing a terminus for 80th Ave SE

§         Kiosk and comfort station need to be pushed back (north) into the plaza and not become the prominent features; a plaza is negative space

§         Create continuity of design and flow of materials using façade treatments or themes; green screen could be used to achieve this

§         Circulation of the parking garage for cars/pedestrians includes a ramp from garage levels to plaza

§         Arts selection process will be inclusive; Marcia Dawson is interacting with MI Arts Council and Sound Transit to work on selecting an artist for the site

§         Design team will provide specific plant materials at Preliminary Design Review, probably January 2005

§         Positive comments regarding the lowered elevation appearance

§         Need to indicate existing crosswalks on plans

§         Landscape design is intended to maximize safety, allowing light and visibility to lower levels of parking garage; removal of large trees on north side of site was applauded by adjacent neighbors (allows increased light)

§         Uplighting of planting around lower level suggested to increase safety

§         The concrete wall will only be as visible as current conditions


Chairman Glick invited public testimony portion of the meeting but there were no comments from citizens.


Overall, the Design Commission recommended further work on the following:

§         Provide specific plant materials

§         Provide design details of kiosk, lighting fixtures, and benches

§         Increased screening for comfort station

§         Comfort station and kiosk moved further north into the plaza

§         Better integration of materials and design on all sides of structure

§         Consideration of adjacent streetscapes

§         Pedestrian, bicycle, and traffic interaction


The Design Commission thanked the applicant for the presentation. 


2.   Action Item #1: The applicant, Dan Reiner, proposes to install a new internally lit sign for Cascade Frames at 3049 78th Ave SE, the Gull Industries property that houses the Rite Aid shopping complex.  The sign is 20 square feet and consists of internally illuminated wrapped channel lettering. 


Chairman Glick introduced the project and asked for the staff report. 


Shelley Krueger, Associate Planner, summarized the staff report.  Ms. Krueger explained that the applicant was proposing a sign composed of internally lit channel wrapped letters that measured approximately 20 square feet.  The letters are red acrylic wrapped in dark bronze colored aluminum and lit from inside with red neon.  This color scheme works well with the existing brick and beige façade and other signs in the complex. 


The dimensions of the sign are 15’3” long x 1’4” high.  The application is within size limits and placement criteria and meets eligibility requirements.  However, the code requires signs to be in context with surrounding architecture.  Existing signs in the complex are usually shorter in length (7’ to 10’) long.  Staff recommendation included a maximum sign length of 10’, for a total size of 13.3 square feet.


Chairman Glick then asked for the presentation by the applicant.


The applicant was represented by Jim Manning of Jim Manning and Associates, 6925 216th St SW, Suite J, Lynnwood, WA.  Mr. Manning stated that existing signs in the complex were larger than the staff report noted.  He explained that the proposed sign was half the length of the storefront and therefore proportional to the existing conditions. 


After some discussion regarding dimensions and photo simulation accuracy, the Design Commission felt the drawings provided by the applicant to be insufficient material with which to evaluate the application. 



George Wittman moved to postpone the decision until the applicant provided a more accurate site plan and elevations.  Carl Bryant Jr. seconded the motion. 


Richard Hart interjected and asked the Design Commission to consider the materials before them and decide based on that and the representative’s presentation. 


After further discussion, the applicant stated that the letters of the sign are shown accurately, the drawings and photo simulation portrays correct proportions, and the neon is completely hidden by the letter cases. 



Commissioner Wittman recalled the motion to postpone and replaced it with the motion to approve the sign application as presented by the applicant’s representative.  Commissioner Ridolfi seconded.  This approval is subject to the following conditions:

1.   The sign color, material, size, and placement shall be installed according to the plans and elevations submitted to the Design Commission.

The motion passed 5-0.



Regular Business:


Council Liaison Report:

Jim Pearman, Council Liaison to the Design Commission, reported the following:

            Community Center: 

§         There is increased public activity and participation

§         A $63,000 sculpture will be placed on the site

§         The entry will be emphasized using architecture and public art

§         June 1:  Daycare moves out of existing Community Center

§         July:  Construction begins

§         December 2005:  completion

            Luther Burbank:

§         Went before the voters to change the six year time plan

§         Discussed potential for committee and revenue changes at the recent City Council retreat


§         Marcia Dawson and Fred Glick gave valuable input on the Ad Hoc Committee for design regulations outside the Town Center


Director’s Comments:                            

§         Last week the Planning Commission recommended approval to the Design Regulations Outside the Town Center with small changes:

§         Went back to the original shall/should wording

§         Deleted term “Northwest Style” but kept architectural references

§         City Council first reading will be on May 3rd; second reading on May 17, should go into effect approximately July 1

§         There will be no April 28, 2004 Design Commission meeting

§         Town Center construction update:

§         Starbucks is moving out May 1, 2004; Coldwell Banker Bain May 15, 2004

§         Staff is meeting with all construction representatives every second Friday at 8am; anyone is welcome to attend

§         There are monthly updates on the City website

§         There will be no construction during the Summer Celebration


Next Regular Meeting:  The next Design Commission meeting is scheduled for May 12th at 7:30 PM.  


Commissioner Absences:  All Commissioners indicated that they could attend the next meeting.


Adjournment:  9:55 PM


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