Monday, November 30, 2020

Hospital Construction Activity This Week


 


Building Care, also called Forest B, of Phase 2 of Children's Hospital expansion is underway and the new building is planned to open in Spring of 2022.
The tower crane was recently removed. 
The 310,000 square-foot addition will add an eight-story building and will includes diagnostic and treatment facilities, primarily out-patient cancer and others) labs, new state-of-the-art operating rooms, 20 inpatient beds, and a lobby. There will be two floors of underground parking and sterile processing. This will bring SCH bed total to 409, up from 200 before its expansion 2012 plan.

The helicopter landing pad moved temporarily to the roof of Forest A (176’), now known as Friends of Costco Building, Phase 1 of the expansion. The landing pad will be active until Building Care is completed. Noise is expected to be louder than the former ground-based helipad. When Forest B is complete, the helistop will moves to its permanent location on top of the Friends of Costco Building (same height).
The Hospital posted this information on their Construction Blog about specific construction activity this week:
  • Framing
  • Paint
  • Install roofing
  • Install windows
  • Install ductwork
  • Install metal sheeting and panels
  • Install mechanical and electrical wiring and plumbing equipment
  • Install drywall
  • Waterproofing
  • Install siding
  • Install elevator equipment
  • Install ceilings
  • Build out electrical, mechanical, telecommunication, machine and generator rooms
  • Install flooring
  • Build out interior spaces
  • Install sprinkler system
  • Building connection work:
    • Demolish walls and ceiling and install utility wiring on level 3 of River C
    • Paint and install utility wiring and ceiling on level 5 of River C
    • Install expansion joint covers, utility wiring, and ceiling on level 6 of River C
    • Install expansion joint covers on level 7 of River C
    • Paint and install ceiling on level L1 of Forest A
    • Paint and install flooring on level 1 of Forest A
    • Remove infection prevention barriers on level 2 of Forest A
    • Paint, install corner guards, and remove infection prevention barriers on level 3 of Forest A
    • Paint and install ceiling, utility wiring, and corner guards on level 4 of Forest A
    • Paint and install ceiling and utility wiring on level 5 of Forest A

All work will take place 8-6pm weekdays and 9-6pm on Saturdays.
Call 206-987-8000 or email construction@seattlechildrens.org with questions.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Laurelhurst Blog Staff On Vacation This Week

 


The Laurelhurst Blog staff will be on vacation next week and will resume posting on November 29th. 

In the meantime, please keep sending us your informative emails, story ideas and comments. We look forward to responding upon our return.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2020

City Classifies Hospital's Next Large Development As "Exempt" Contrary To 100s Of Comments Submitted

Children's Hospital's next phase of expansion, called "Copper Project," includes a new surgery pavilion and parking garage, at a proposed height of 37 feet, to be located at the north end of Laurelhurst, in the area of 44th Avenue NE from NE 47th to NE 50th Streets. 

The buildings will be viewable by those living in that area, according to images prepared by the Hospital's contracted design firm. The buildings will also be situated close to the perimeter of the Hospital and residential boundaries. As neighbors have expressed in over 100 pages of comments submitted to the City, there will be significant  and permanent impacts  affecting the livability of the neighborhood.

Master Use Permit 3036201-LU states (as well as the signs around the perimeter):

Land use application to allow a 3-story building addition to existing institution (Children’s Hospital, Surgery Pavilion & Garage (2 buildings connected by a bridge span). Parking for 1,138 vehicles proposed. Portion of existing garage to be demolished.

At Wednesday's SAC meeting, it was reported the SAC members were surprised to hear that the City has already made a decision to deem the large development as "exempt." A slide in the evening's presentation said:

The Advisory Committee shall be given the opportunity to review a proposed minor or major amendment and submit comments on whether it should be considered minor or major, and what conditions (if any) should be imposed if it is minor. 

Colin Vasquez, City Design Review Planner assigned to this project announced to the SAC that the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDC(I) Director, Nathan Torgelson, had already made its decision, though he said that he has never spoken with Torgelson about the project and the decision.  

Another slide stated: 

A proposed change to an adopted master plan shall be reviewed by the Director and determined to be an exempt change, a minor amendment, or a major amendment. The Director's decision that a proposed amendment is minor or major shall be made in the form of an interpretation subject to the procedures of Chapter 23.88, Rules; Interpretation. If the Director and the Major Institution agree that a major amendment is required based on subsection E of this section, the interpretation process may be waived, and the amendment and environmental review process shall be subject to the provisions of subsection G of this section. After the Director makes a decision on whether an amendment is minor or major, the Advisory Committee shall be notified.

Here is a slide explaining an exempt change:

Criteria for Exempt Changes to MIMP 23.69.34.B 

Exempt Changes. An exempt change shall be a change to the design and/or location of a planned structure or other improvement from that shown in the master plan, which the Director shall approve without publishing an interpretation. Any new gross floor area or parking space(s) must be accompanied by a decrease in gross floor area or parking space(s) elsewhere if the total gross floor area or parking spaces permitted for the entire MIO District or, if applicable, the subarea would be exceeded. Each exempt change must meet the development standards for the MIO District. Exempt changes shall be: 

1. Any new structure or addition to an existing structure not approved in the master plan that is twelve thousand (12,000) square feet of gross floor area or less; or 

2. Twenty (20) or fewer parking spaces not approved in the master plan or

3. An addition to a structure not yet constructed but approved in the master plan that is no greater than twenty percent (20%) of the approved gross floor area of that structure or twenty thousand (20,000) square feet, whichever is less; or 

4. Any change in the phasing of construction, if not tied to a master plan condition imposed under approval by the Council; or 5. Any increase in gross floor area below grade.

Explanations for major and minor amendments can be found here

It has been reported that some SAC members did not understand why they had not been informed prior to the meeting about the Director's very important decision.  

SAC members also were not informed that the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) and David Yuan, an adjacent resident to the Hospital, submitted a request to the City for a Code Interpretation regarding SCDI's preliminary decision to label the Phase 3 SCH project as an "exempt."

LCC told the Laurelhurst Blog:

SDCI is not considering the Phase 3 changes as a Major, nor a Minor Amendment to the originally approved MIMP (Major Institution Master Plan. If they ruled it Major or Minor, it triggers a Supplemental EIS requirement to study any potential impacts from the project.

LCC understands from SDCI, that the SAC does not have input about this decision. The SAC design review process would make more sense after a decision on the Request for Interpretation is issued, perhaps by year end. 

The City website explains a Code Interpretation: 

A code interpretation is a formal decision on the meaning, application, or intent of any development regulation in our Land Use or Environmentally Critical Area codes. Interpretations are site-specific. They do not address how a standard applies in general, but rather how it applies to a specific site or development proposal. You can request an interpretation that is not related to a pending project, that is related to a pending project, or that is related to a pending project that is subject to appeal. 

The Code Interpretation letter, submitted by LCC's attorney states (in part):

This RFI is submitted because the categorization of the SCH Proposal as a Major or Minor Amendment will have significant impacts on how the interests of the surrounding community will be recognized and protected during the City’s review. To date, this critical question has not been sufficiently explored for the SCH Proposal, which will significantly burden the community.

The SCH Proposal must be classified as a Major, not Minor Amendment. To fit in the Minor Amendment category, a proposal must be “consistent with the original intent of the adopted master plan.” SMC 23.69.035 D. As explained below, the SCH proposal is not consistent with this original intent, and in several respects undermines the MIMP’s protective and mitigative purposes. First, SCH proposes an entirely new road network within its campus. In the 2010 MIMP, currently in effect, Penny Drive was shown in a SE orientation and provided access directly to the Ocean garage, south of the corner of 44th Ave NE and NE 47th St. Separately, the 2010 MIMP included a small access road, designed for service and fire access, in the 75’ buffer behind the North Garage. SCH specifically labeled the road as “Service and Fire Access” in the map in the adopted 2010 MIMP.

The current SCH Proposal entirely redesigns and changes the function of the road network inside the SCH campus, to the detriment of the adjacent community. SCH would build a brand-new perimeter road that is parallel to 44th Ave. NE. All visitors parking at the Ocean Garage (608 parking spaces) will be diverted to this perimeter road sited on the outside edge of SCH property and immediately adjacent to single family homes. 

Penny Drive will now run SE, and then east and south. The former low use fire access and service road in the 75’ buffer will be lengthened substantially and transformed into an I-5-like corridor, serving as the major roadway providing ingress and egress to the existing 600 plus stall Ocean garage right next to the residential homes along 44th Ave NE. Further, unlike I-5, which experiences substantial reductions in activity depending on time of day, hospitals function 24/7 with multiple shift changes – intensifying impacts on residents. The Proposal’s new road network is far more and much worse than a mere “realignment” of Penny Drive. It bears no resemblance to the configuration of Penny Drive from the 2010 MIMP.

SCH is proposing to create an entirely new road network. That network will needlessly -- and contrary to the mitigative and protective intent of the MIMP – impose the impacts of adjacency to heavy traffic on the surrounding residential community.  

Additional MIMP and City Council statements, including the following, make unmistakable the fundamental 2010 MIMP premise that, to protect the neighboring community from its impacts, hospital expansion would occur at the bottom of the campus and adjacent to Sand Point Way NE: A. “Children’s revised its proposed MIMP to include early expansion onto Laurelon (Alternative 7R)… The change also allowed Children’s to… place increased height and bulk at a lower elevation where it is removed from most single-family neighborhoods to the east and south…. “ Seattle City Council Findings, No. 52, Page 10 (emphasis added) B. … “Children’s Master Plan… carefully balances the urgent need for additional capacity at the hospital with innovative programs and plans that respond to community concerns. Children’s commitment to purchase Laurelon Terrace, thus moving the bulk of its expansion “downhill” and adjacent to the Sand Point Way NE arterial and refining the proposed development through transitional heights and building setbacks, represented an extraordinary mitigation measure to reduce the impact of the expansion on neighbors.” 2010 MIMP, page 9 (emphasis added) C. “The Master Plan allows Children’s to… place the majority of new development on the Laurelon Terrace site…2010 MIMP, page 9. D. “The Master Plan will primarily utilize the lower elevations of the expanded campus for new development…. The majority of the new buildings will be located on the lowest areas of the expanded hospital campus and closest to Sand Point Way NE and 40th Avenue NE on Laurelon Terrace. 2010 MIMP, page 42.

To avoid impacts on the neighboring community, City Council approved -- against public policy for preservation of housing -- SCH acquisition of Laurelon Terrace, displacement of its residents, and redevelopment of the downhill Laurelon Terrace site. The Proposal, by constructing a hospital building at the top of the hill instead of downhill near Sand Point Way NE, would abandon a core principle of the 2010 MIMP.

As noted above, the Proposal must be categorized as a Major, not Minor, Amendment because, to fit in the Minor Amendment category, a proposal must be “consistent with the original intent of the adopted master plan” and the SCH proposal is not consistent with the 2010 MIMP. SMC 23.69.035 D. If the Proposal is nonetheless deemed MIMP consistent, it is then within the Minor Amendment category because: 1) the construction of the new perimeter road will “be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity in which the Major Institution is located;….” SMC 23.69.035(D)(2); and 2) The construction of the surgery pavilion on the eastern edge of the site and at the highest point of the Hospital’s property will “result in significantly greater impacts than those contemplated in the adopted master plan.” SMC 23.69.035(D)(1). 


After hearing the Director's decision on "exempt" status, it is reported that several SAC members expressed that they did not believe the meeting should continue with the presentation. Some members stated that the meeting should be postponed until SDCI made a decision on LCC's Request for Interpretation, expected sometime next month as how the presentation is viewed is impacted by the role the SAC will have in the design review process. A vote was taken and won by a small margin to continue the meeting and hear  the presentation.  

Following the presentation, Maureen Sheehan, Department of Neighborhoods' Major Institutions and Schools Coordinator, read the public comments received, with only  two minutes maximum allowed for each comment received, so not all comments were read in their entirety. 

The public comments read partially at the meeting can be found here

Public comments can still be submitted to  to Maureen.Sheehan@seattle.gov or 206-684-0302. On December 3rd live public comments will be heard.

Public comments read at the meeting included these areas that neighbors will severely impacted and permanently changed the livability of the neighborhood with the current plan:

  • only one proposal submitted, no additional alternatives have been proposed or submitted to the SAC for review
  • City should require a Supplementary EIS to examine the impacts of the construction
  • height of the buildings need to be reduced
  • site of the new buildings needs to be lower on the hill
  • parking structures should be underground or greatly sunken
  • all access to the hospital should be limited to Sandpoint Way only rather than using neighborhood streets
  • current hospital roads need to be retained
  • Impacts - view, glare, lights, garage noise, building materials that are reflective from buildings onto homes (including cranes)
  • buffers should be green, wide and dense with all heritage trees retained
  • the site of the new buildings need to be lower on the hill
  • why development is on highest point of campus rather than lowest point
  • concerns with the construction of a new two-lane perimeter road within the buffer that leads to the Ocean Garage
  • impacts of a construction project that will take more than three years (projected total of 40 months) to build
  • impacts of congestion on NE 45th Street
  • construction truck volume making loop through neighborhood: 1 truck every 3 minutes on NE 45th, 45th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street and potential impacts, especially on narrow streets, near Elementary School
  • possible home foundation damage with continuous flow of heavy trucks for more than 3 years
  • diversion of traffic into neighborhoods especially 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th Avenues NE causing congestion
  • flagger on NE 45th Street for 3 years specifically assisting Hospital employees exiting newly opened exit from Hospital parking garage on NE 45th Street, backing up neighborhood traffic and favoring employee traffic
  • major shift in narrowing 75' buffer on northeast perimeter along 44th Avenue NE
  • new perimeter road to be situated next to the parking garage will be only for maintenance and emergency vehicles, however it is unclear how that will be enforced and not allow cars exiting garage to use the access road
  • the impacts of cutting down all 45 exceptional trees on the northeast part of the Hospital property
  • Hospital stating that the proposal is consistent with the MIMP and that it can move buildings around if desired

The meeting ended with the SAC deciding to hold another meeting in the next few weeks to discuss and deliberate on the Garage and Surgery Building's height, bulk, and scale, Eastern roadway and building setbacks in relation to landscaping. 

Below are only some of the comments the City has received of over 100 pages of comments on file:

The construction of a two-lane road in the buffer eviscerates the use of the buffer as a mitigation measure.  The proposal does not comply with the Council’s intent that the garden edge be used as a screen to protect the single family residences located next to the Hospital.  
Victoria Cleator, with the Hospital. states  in part that the Hospital is exempt from Council conditions. This is not true. When the City Council approved the 2010 MIMP, the Council envisioned using buffers as a tool to mitigate the height, bulk, scale, and other negative environmental impacts of the MIMP on the neighborhood.  In the Seattle City Council’s adopted Findings, Conclusions and Decision, the Council states that the “The proposed upper level setbacks [75 feet on the eastern edge] are designed to mitigate the impacts of additional height bulk and scale resulting from the MIMP.  These measures, along with the proposed landscaping, height restrictions and open space plan, provide adequate mitigation of height bulk and scale impacts on the surrounding properties.”  Seattle City Council, Findings, Conclusions and Decision, Seattle Children’s Hospital Major Institution Master Plan, dated April 5, 2010 (“Council’s Decision”)(page 23)(emphasis added).  Furthermore, “Mitigation measures are found in Children’s significant commitments that include…a commitment to landscaping that enhances the campus while shielding it from neighborhood properties.”  Council’s Decision, page 25 (emphasis added). 

The MIMP is governed by the Seattle City Council Decision in 2010.  The Council decision states: “Children’s shall create and maintain a Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) to review and comment on all proposed and potential projects prior to submission of their respective Master Use Permit applications.  The SAC shall use the Design Guidelines for their evaluation.”  Council’s Decision, Condition 15, page 28 (emphasis added). 

The Hospital's presentation for the SAC meeting includes a diagram labeled "Site Section at Surgery Building Looking South."  The top drawing is marked "MIMP."  It is not an accurate reflection of the MIMP bacause there is no road for cars that runs next to the North Garage (and parallel to 44th Ave NE).  This is restricted to fire and emergency access.  Second, none of the photos or diagrams of this area reflect the current condition (pages 36 and 37).  The photo does not show the gates restricting access to the parking area.  (this is the photo that I took on Nov. 18th)  The Hospital may try to argue that there is already an existing “ road” within the north parking lot.  This is simply not true.  Also just because the existing greenery within this buffer area next to 44th Ave NE is very thin and porous does not mean that the Hospital can continue to ignor the Seattle City Council’s Decision.  The Council specifically required the Hospital to mitigate its impact on the neighbors to the east (homes on 44th Ave NE).   

In April 2010 when the Seattle City Council approved the Hospital’s 2010 MIMP, the City adopted Ordinance 123263 and the Council’s Findings, Conclusion and Decision (shortened to “Council’s Decision” going forward). “Children’s Final MIMP… is… adopted by the City Council subject to the conditions contained in Council’s [Decision)].” Ordinance 123263, page 1 The Council’s Decision controls the development of the medical and parking facilities and the site plan shown in the MIMP. Assertions have been made that the SAC must limits its review of the Proposal to the Design Guidelines. In other words, the SAC cannot refer to the MIMP or the Council’s Decision. This makes no sense. When the Hospital responded to numerous questions posed by SAC members at the August 31st meeting, the Hospital repeatedly used the MIMP as justification for proposed Project Copper. The Hospital itself placed the MIMP on the table and has opened the door to using the MIMP as the basis for assessing Project Copper. For example, in response to a question from a SAC member regarding the proposed construction of a two-lane road in the buffer, the Hospital referred to the MIMP four times. In response to a question from a SAC member regarding the proposed construction of the Surgery Pavilion at the highest point of the property, the Hospital referred to the MIMP five times. 2 Since the Hospital states that the MIMP authorizes the Proposal, SAC members must review the MIMP and the Council’s Decision in order to assess the validity of this claim. In the Council’s 2010 Decision, the Council explained that it intended to use buffers on the Hospital property as a tool to mitigate the height, bulk, scale, and other negative environmental impacts of the MIMP on the neighborhood. The Council states “The proposed upper level setbacks [75 feet on the eastern edge] are designed to mitigate the impacts of additional height bulk and scale resulting from the MIMP. These measures, along with the proposed landscaping, height restrictions and open space plan, provide adequate mitigation of height bulk and scale impacts on the surrounding properties.” Council’s Decision (page 23). Project Copper must be assessed based on the mitigation measured imposed by the City Council. The SAC should determine for itself the following: 1. What did the Council say when it imposed the Council’s Decision on the MIMP? 2. Does Project Copper comply in full (or in part) with th Council’s Decision and the MIMP? 3. Does the Council’s Decision and the MIMP authorize a new two-lane road to the Ocean Garage? 4. Was the road next to the proposed North Garage (further north on the property) intended to be a new perimeter road? Was the designation on the MIMP map a reference to fire and emergency access? Since the Hospital has relied extensively on the 2010 MIMP and the intent of the 2010 MIMP as the justification for the Proposal, the SAC has no choice but to review the underlying document that were approved by the Seattle City Council. 

I opened my front door and it was like being struck by lightning. The light was so intense! So, I took pictures. They don’t really show the “impact” it had on me. I dread this as a constant problem in the future. Also, I worry about the same problem with the new building, yet to be built. I live in the Laurelcrest Condominiums across from the hospital, just off 40th Ave NE (on Terrace Dr. NE) I called the construction number and left a message. They never returned my call. I asked if they could put a coating on the windows that would stop the glare. First two pictures show glare from new windows. The other picture I have enclosed, highlights, the two spotlights from the middle of the crane at night. My neighbors and I have not enjoyed being on our front porch, day or night, for a very long time. I ate outside, on it, just once this summer. I think the vertical shaft of the crane could have been aptly lit, for safety, using the same lights that were used for the horizontal beam. The crane comes down this weekend. I understand a new smaller crane will go up. Maybe, it is just to dismantle the larger one. It is unclear to me whether the smaller one will stay. Of course, there is the constant noise (and probably dust) six days a week.  

My concerns are: - the livability of the neighborhood will be greatly denigrated with the current plan - the height of the buildings need to be reduced - the parking structures should be underground or greatly sunken - ALL access to the hospital needs to be limited to Sandpoint Way ONLY - the current hospital roads need to be retained - materials used should not be reflective - the buffers should be green, wide and dense with all heritage trees retained - the site of the new buildings need to be lower on the hill. 

Construction trucks will enter Hospital property from NE 45th Street and other entry points near homes. The Hospital’s Addendum projects up to16 truck trips per hour or approximately one truck trip every 3 to 4 minutes. Full disclosure and analysis is required on how such high truck volumes will affect access in and 2 out of Laurelhurst on NE 45th Street and will affect the entire community (including traffic, noise, pollution, and safety).   

We are very concerned for the lighting of structures this close to the neighborhood. 6. The impacts from cutting down over 100 mature trees that are protected by the City’s own tree ordinance and not replacing them with trees in kind. Just preparing an Addendum to the EIS is not adequate. The City should require the Hospital to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that fully analyzes the range of adverse environmental impacts from this proposal. How is it appropriate to rely on a 2008 EIS that is twelve years old, limited in its analysis, and that does not reflect the impacts from the proposed 2020 construction projects?   

The new surgery pavilion would be at the east upper end of the site very close to 44th Ave NE. The building would be visible but also there would be glare, lights at night and mechanical noise very close to homes in our area-particularly on 44th Ave NE, 45th Ave NE, NE 47th St. There is no need for it to be in this location. The pavilion should be moved downhill closer to Sandpoint Way. The parking garage is to be above ground (it should be underground possibly under the surgery pavilion) and Penny Lane (the main road into the hospital) would be rerouted close to 44th AVE NE in what is supposed to be the 75 foot buffer green zone. This would add to the noise. During construction, there would be an exit from the present Whale Garage on NE45th St. which would lead to a major traffic back-up on NE 45th St from the exit to Sandpoint Way. Drivers would be forced to choose alternatives routes to Sandpoint Way which would turn 45th Ave NE, 46th Ave NE and 47th Ave NE into major arterials. Furthermore, there would be a construction entrance near 44th Ave NE and NE47th St, for 40 months (3 years and 4 months!) which would allow for constant truck traffic directly into our neighborhood. This in itself is completely unacceptable. It is not safe for the many children in the area. Laurelhurst School is 2 blocks from this exit point. As previously explained it would turn our streets into major roadways which is not what they are zoned as and this is not the environment we chose to live in when we bought in the area. To be clear, we are a neighborhood and a community. We are not a commercially zoned area. It is, in fact, unusual for a hospital to be located in such a residential area. We tolerate the sound of construction that has gone on for years, delivery truck arriving in the middle of the night, car alarms going off, the hum of the machinery and of course the helicopter landings that appear to be on the increase. But enough is enough. When the hospital proposed their last expansion, which eventually resulted in the Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP), they initially acted very aggressively lacking consideration for neighbors as they are behaving now. It took several years to come to a decent compromise which was that the hospital construction was limited to building downhill near Sandpoint Way. The construction traffic remained on the west (Sandpoint) side of the hospital and we felt that the hospital finally acknowledged that it was necessary to respect the livability of our neighborhood. But once again they are ignoring this. 

We propose these alternatives: 1) Build the garage underground with the surgery pavilion on top, all downhill close to Sandpoint Way. 2) Any construction entrance would be a new entrance on Sandpoint Way, west of Penny Lane. 3) All construction and building would be kept on the west side and no traffic would be allowed to exist on NE45th St or 44Ave NE. Also I hope that the hospital will not do a replay of their public relations campaign during the last request for expansion, which attempted to vilify anyone objecting to their expansion designs. We all support the excellent quality health care that they provide. As I mentioned in my first letter, our son has autism and has received wonderful help. We donate annually. But this has nothing to do with the hospital expansion plans and should not be any part of the discussion. 

We live on 45th Ave NE and have been present through various stages of construction. When the Whale parking lot on the east side was built we were subjected to months and months of noise, trucks barreling down our street and traffic congestion on our street and on NE 45th St. With the next stage of construction, after a long hard fight to protect our neighborhood, Seattle Children’s Hospital compromised and built downhill, buying and building on the Laurelon condominium complex land. Construction was kept downhill and it appeared that the hospital really respected our concerns and our need to live in a peaceful community and neighborhood. This was a very good compromise and well appreciated and we had minimal disturbances from the construction. But getting to this stage was far from easy as the public relations department at the hospital developed a “Friends of Children’s” campaign meant to malign anyway who objected the expansion of the hospital as proposed. The disagreement also involved a court case with the hospital administration and lawyers using patients as props to push for the need of approval of their specific design. Fortunately it all ended with a decent compromise as mentioned. I hope that a reasonable compromise can be reached on the next phase without the previous contentions and complications, with a compromise including an underground parking garage, keeping heights as low as possible, building downhill rather than near 44thAve NE and maintaining the 75’ greenway as green space. 

I am writing to insist that the City require a Supplementary EIS to examine the impacts of this expanded construction. From routine reading of the posted notice boards and other materials during the ongoing construction, it was not possible to get an idea of this newly disclosed additional construction. The use of neighborhood streets for delivery trucks, the removal of barrier screening vegetation, and the greatly increased height of the parking garage, all increase the severe impacts on the neighbors and neighborhood. A rigorous supplemental EIS would require SCH to consider the impacts and to discuss less intrusive alternatives.  

 My house is just on the other side of those trees to the right of the photo off a typical road in our single-family neighborhood) On Friday, October 2nd and on Monday, October 5th, the Hospital commissioned a crew to drill borings in the north parking lot of Children’s Hospital across the street from my house. The sound was extremely loud, like the sound of someone drilling and breaking up concrete. I am working at home. My oldest daughter is in high school and my youngest daughter in elementary school. They are in remote learning. We were all subjected to high levels of noise that caused headaches and severely impacted our health and well-being for those two days. I can’t imagine what it will be like with the construction project for Project Copper since it will be for over three years. I understand that the Addendum to the EIS for Project Copper is predicting that construction noise will exceed levels allowed by the Seattle Noise ordinance. This is unacceptable. The hospital must prepare a Supplemental EIS, commission a full noise impact study and install appropriate noise mitigation methods that do not negatively impact the neighbors to the east of the Hospital campus.

The public can continue to submit comments to SDCI via Maureen.Sheehan@seattle.gov or 206-684-0302. 

A neighbor added that:

The community should submit comments right away about the changes in the  project #3036201-LU as it is proposed from its original footprint, and about the impacts it would have on nearby residences' quality of life. If these impacts and changes are perceived as significant, neighbors should also request that SDCI require a Supplemental EIS to be performed which conducts a neutral and more rigorous study on the project.

Public comments should be submitted to  to Maureen.Sheehan@seattle.gov or 206-684-0302. 

On December 3rd live public comments will be heard.

All public comments are here

Here is a recording of Wednesday's SAC meeting (password zCY3GjEM)




Thursday, November 19, 2020

Break-in At Former Pro Robics Building



picture of one burglar



On November 4th a break-in around 3am, at the former Pro-Robics building (3803 NE 45th Street) was reported by the owner of the building.

The owner described one of the burglars as a white male, in his 30s, brown hair, wearing a gray hoody and black pants. He was driving an older white Subaru.  The information was reported to the police.

The owner told the Laurelhurst Blog:
Three individuals, took 45 minutes casing and breaking in.  The thieves scaled the walls and broke in via a window on top floor. They were very committed and armed with pry bars and break in equipment. We have video of the suspects and the alarm sounded when they opened the door. 

The building was purchased last year by Summit Capital Partners LLC, a Real Estate investment and Development company. 

ProRobics closed last year after 30 years in that location.

The owner told the Laurelhurst Blog that his company purchased the building to renovate and have their corporate headquarters. Summit Capital Partners LLC has occupied the building for past few months and the owner said it will be fully occupied for commercial use. Recently the space has undergone some remodeling and last week the employees relocated to the back spaces to allow the flooring to be finished.  Approximately 30 staff will be working in the offices of the real estate investment company.

The owner told the Laurelhurst Blog: "We look forward to being part of the community."



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

All About American Bitterns

 

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time local photographer and birder.

Masters of Camouflage

Last weekend was only the third time in nine years that I have seen an American Bittern on Union Bay. All three sightings have been along the shore and within a one hundred yard radius. Each of the bitterns walked in and out of the cattails while inspecting the shallow water along the shore for prey.

Curiously, I have been in my kayak each time I saw one of the Bitterns. Being close to their preferred habitat may have improved my odds of noticing them. On each occasion, I have watched them hunt. Sadly, during the two previous encounters, I did not see them catch anything. 

All three of the Bitterns were immature. Each bird lacked the black patch on the neck that would indicate maturity (Click Here to see an example). Since Bitterns are immature for only a small portion of their lives, I must have seen three different individuals. All three sightings were in the Fall. Most likely when they were each migrating towards Winter warmth.

This time, out of the corner of my eye, all I saw was a brief flash of movement. I had no clue what creature caused the motion. When I looked closer all I saw was the cattails slowly shaking to a stop.

According to the current range maps in "All About Birds" (and "Birds of the World") Bitterns apparently no longer nest west of the Cascades. In my previous Bittern post, I explained that 70 years ago Bitterns were known to nest on Union Bay. (Click Here to read the story.) They are currently shown as nesting in the northern half of the US and the southern half of Canada from the Cascades all the way east to the Atlantic Ocean. 

They are widespread. However, they only nest in and around wetlands - areas which we, humans, tend to drain and develop. Like many other birds, their numbers are declining. But they are so good at hiding it is hard to notice their shrinking population. 

The American Bitterns are so secretive that in Birds of the World, where they normally relate what a species natal down looks like, it simply says, "Undescribed." We still have a lot to learn about these incredibly specialized and secretive creatures.

This photo focuses on the vegetation in the foreground, instead of the bird. I believe this is what our eyes tend to see when we are searching the shore for birds. Because I was in the kayak and using a telephoto lens this photo might even feel a bit closer to the bird than if we were using binoculars from a more distant location.

Now, the focus has shifted from the foliage to the Bittern. Don't be discouraged if you still cannot see it. Even immature Bitterns are masters of camouflage and concealment.

Finally, here is the same photo cropped and enlarged.  Even though the Bittern nearly fills the screen, it is not exactly easy to see. I suspect that we have American Bitterns passing through Union Bay every Autumn, often without being noticed at all. I wonder if some might even spend their winters here?

Skipping ahead, here is another classic American Bittern camouflage pose. In this case, the stripes on the long thin neck line-up with the vertical vegetation and help to hide the bird. 

Notice how the Bittern holds its bill up out of the way and peers around its 'chin' or neck. 

Luckily, there were moments when the Bittern stood tall and backlit by the brilliant sunlight.

I am always amazed by how the neck can shrink. The Bittern is returning to the hunt.

With a somber and stately stride, it proceeded along the dark bank of the shore.

Momentarily, it raised its head. Once again it is peering around its 'chin'. Evidently, this odd position enlarges its field of vision - at least in the area where it is hunting

I waited. Patiently hoping, that I might see it catch something to eat.

After the venture along the shore, the Bittern turned back towards the area it had previously hunted.

With a sudden extension of its neck, it snagged a pollywog i.e. a young bullfrog destined to never reach maturity.

A little mashing and thrashing turned the tadpole into a mid-day meal.

An American Bittern's long neck makes swallowing its prey a bit of a challenge. The food had a long way to go. I am a bit surprised that the bird did not extend its neck up into the air to get a little extra help from gravity.

Unlike with humans, for a Bittern swallowing can be a multi-step process.

It took at least a half-a-dozen repeats of the swallowing effort to transport lunch from the upper end of the throat to its digestive destination.

Afterward, the Bittern turned and headed back towards its original location.

It stopped along the way. It was clearly enthralled with something. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not see what it was looking at.

I suspect a small insect because of the way the Bittern slowly raised its head while maintaining its laser-like focus.

I never did spot the insect. However, watching the full extension of the Bittern's neck was a perfectly adequate reward for my efforts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Wednesday Hospital Meeting On Upcoming Tall New Building and Parking Lot Impacting North Laurelhurst Residents

Tomorrow from 6-8pm, the community is invited to attend the next in the series of Children Hospital Meetings with the SAC (Standing Advisory Committee) to hear about upcoming plans for "Copper Project" - a new surgery pavilion and parking garage at the north end of Laurelhurst, in the area of 45th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street.

The proposed height is 37 feet and according to images prepared by the architect,  neighbors on 44th Avenue NE will be able to see the top of both of the proposed buildings.

Meeting materials:


For public comments to be read at the meeting, they must be sent 24 hours before the meeting to Maureen.Sheehan@seattle.gov or 206-684-0302.  Public comment will be read during the public comment portion of the meeting for no longer than 2 minutes. That time may be extended based on the number of comments received.

Comments will still be received within 7 days after the meeting and distributed to groups mentioned above. 

Here is the agenda:

  • Welcome /Introductions of SAC members Membership update
  • 6:00 Meeting #25 Context  
  • 6:10 Housekeeping - Review & Adopt 8/31/20 Minutes  
  • 6:15 Role of the SAC, Committee Clarifying Questions 
  • 6:30 Surgery Building & Parking Garage Project – • Project overview, design and key themes from public comments on Garage and Surgery Builing height, bulk, and scale, Eastern roadway and building setbacks in relation to landscaping- Vickie Cleator - Seattle Children’s Tobin Thompson- ZGF, Committee Clarifying Questions 
  • 7:25 Public Comment 
  • 7:45 Committee Deliberation Committee
  • 8:00 PM Adjournment and scheduling of next meeting Richard Loo

Master Use Permit 3036201-LU states, as well as the signs around the perimeter:

Land use application to allow a 3-story building addition to existing institution (Children’s Hospital, Surgery Pavilion & Garage (2 buildings connected by a bridge span). Parking for 1,138 vehicles proposed. Portion of existing garage to be demolished. Addendum to Final Environmental impact Statement for Seattle Children’s Hospital Major Institution Master Plan dated November 2008, has been prepared.

Maureen Sheehan, Major Institutions and Schools Coordinator shared this information with community members on her emailing list:

Seattle Children’s has been in the planning process for two new buildings, being called Project Copper, under the existing Master Plan. We are holding a series of on-line Standing Advisory Committee meetings to receive a detailed project presentation and review and comment on Project Copper later this Summer. These meetings will be run like the in-person meetings, i.e. open to the public, public comment will be taken, etc. 
This comment was received: 
The Hospital is at it again, doing what is best for them, rather than taking into consideration the livability needs of neighbors.  The two very tall structures will be visible by those living on the east side of the Hospital on 44th Avenue NE. There will also be glare, excessive noise from the mechanicals on the tops of the buildings. 
And on top of that, Children's is opening an entrance to employee parking on NE 45th Street! That very busy street has constant traffic, sometimes at high rates of speed. So an accident is waiting to happen. Why does the Hospital get to just open a parking garage as they deem necessary and destroy the flow of traffic for the residents? Because it benefits them and their employees, period. Oh and they will have flaggers but they will let employees in while neighbors wait.  
And let's not forget added to this new parking entrance will be an even bigger back-up at the light at NE 45th Street and Sand Point Way. The back-up which includes Children's Hospital shuttles (mostly always empty!) sometimes can be 10 cars long. And the timing of the light is horrible. Long waits on the week-ends when there is no -line before the light finally switches. And then short lights during heavy traffic times. How does that make sense? 
Added to this to completely benefit Children's employees, will be about 70 construction trucks per day making a continuous route through the neighborhood, bothering neighbors from early morning to evening. Some streets on the route of the numerous enormous trucks are quite narrow with cars on both sides. Oh and children playing outside. But that doesn't matter, let's do whatever the Hospital needs, not the neighborhood. 
Neighbors, read the information, take it in and then send in your comments asap.  This construction period is going to last FOUR years, FOUR YEARS. 

Another neighbor wrote:
It is hugely concerning that neighbors living near “ground zero” for this new Phase 3, will be greatly impacted.  The 2 1/2 year project is very close to neighbors along 44th Avenue NE and it really seems as if the Hospital needs to be open to some mitigation especially for those neighbors who will endure that intense, noisy and dusty construction for such a lengthy period of time.  
It's also unclear why the Hospital cannot dig below grade for the parking garage, rather than building up. It has been reported that the Hospital says it is too expensive!  That seems irrelevant with them buying a row of houses on NE 45th at one time, along with their latest construction projects and now this one. 
Putting the garage lower would not impact surrounding neighbors  and would be below sight line.  If course the Hospital can do this.  They just don't want to and pretend they don't have enough money. They want what they want, not what works for the neighborhood.  Both need to work together. Of course Children's can afford doing this; it's just their excuse to say they can't.  Children's appears to always have plenty of money for their many,many capital projects as well as the many large donations they received who in turn get their names put on the buildings and the pocket parks.  
Information has also been circulated to neighbors that employees will use a parking garage on NE 45th Street during the almost 3 year phase. Isn't this dangerous with so many cars zooming down NE 45th Street and employees turning left into the garage? It's an accident waiting to happen...multiple accidents, all for this next phase and employees getting the right of way into a parking garage jeopordizing safety of the neighborhood drivers. 

The City also received these comments from a nearby neighbor:
I am writing to express concern about Copper Project Phase 3 at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. I live across the street on the east side of Children’s site. 
For the last twenty years we have been protected from impact from the hospital by a 75’ landscaped buffer that has been quite effective. A low level of lighting on the surface of the Ocean Parking Structure has preserved the residential feel of the neighborhood and protected wildlife during the nighttime from light pollution. 
Parking restrictions on 45th Ave NE for Children’s employees have been generally effective, though I have noticed in recent years that the no parking signage along the periphery of the hospital has gotten run down and overgrown so that the supposed fire lanes around the hospital are often no longer clear of parked cars. 
I am concerned that the proposed Copper Project Phase 3 takes away these effective buffers along 44th Ave NE, exposing my neighbors not only to very significant construction noise, but also to long-term traffic impact of noise and pollution. 
My concerns are: 
  • The proposal realigns Penny Drive so that it takes away about one third of the landscaped buffer along 44th Avenue NE, and routes all traffic for the Ocean garage parallel and next to 44th Ave NE. This exposes the residents of 44th Ave NE to unnecessary noise and traffic pollution and deprives them of part of their buffer. Since the surgery pavilion is supposed to be connected to the existing hospital by a bridge (as will the parking structure), it seems to me that Penny Lane should retain its existing alignment and the Surgery Pavilion be connected to the rest of the hospital by a bridge (that will be there anyway). That would require the Surgery Pavilion to be sited somewhat north from where it is in the proposal, but by doing so not only will the residents of 44th Ave NE be protected from noise and pollution, but it may be that the existing view of the Olympics along NE 47th Street could be preserved. 
  • The height of the north parking garage, while within the height overlay, is unnecessarily tall. It could be reduced considerably by excavating at least some of it underground. 
  • While the height of the surgery pavilion is within the height overlay, it goes above the buffer tree canopy. If it cannot be reduced, the plan must be very careful to protect the neighborhood from nighttime light pollution and daytime glare from the building. We don’t want the neighborhood lighted up 24-7 as if it is a downtown office park. 
I have a second set of concerns having to do with construction impacts. The construction of the Ocean parking lot across from my house some twenty years ago made work at home impossible for me. I am a professor at the University of Washington. Luckily, I had an office then to flee to during the day, but now no more. I am retired and work primarily at home writing for publication. My wife is also retired and at home during the day. I know that many of my neighbors are working at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
All of this means that disruption of our lives during the day by construction noise is not a trivial issue. The town houses on NE 50th street will be very seriously affected. I have also heard complaints from residents along Sand Point Way (which is scheduled to get a new high-rise apartment, and a retirement community over the next couple of year). The hours during which heavy traffic can be allowed must be strictly limited. The proposed construction entrance on NE 50th street negotiates a very steep gradient. Construction vehicles grinding up that hill will seriously disrupt the high-density residential district north of Children’s. Perhaps reversing the flow of vehicles so that they exit rather than enter on NE 50th street would ameliorate that problem. 
In addition, entrance and egress to the Ocean garage is slated to be at approximately the corner of NE 45th Street and 45th Street Northeast during construction. This has happened before. When this exit was last used a traffic jam from Sandpoint Way up NE 45th Street almost as far as the Ocean Garage itself occurred every afternoon making it almost impossible for residents to exit the neighborhood at that time. Perhaps Children’s should consider parking even more employees at the UW Montlake lots and bringing them in by shuttle as they already do.  
Finally, traffic has gotten heavy enough that it is time for a traffic light at Sandpoint Way and NE 50th Street. This is a major point of entry and exist for Laurelhurst residents, yet getting across Sandpoint Way (either to go south or cross to 40th Ave NE) has gotten very dangerous. I know that Sandpoint Way keeps getting more traffic lights, but that is mainly due to growth at Children’s Hospital. I wonder if the lights could not be coordinated so that traffic can run down Sandpoint Way smoothly while still allowing those needing to cross the highway to do so safely.

A north Laurelhurst neighbor submitted these comments:
In the 2010 MIMP there is strong language regarding Children's commitment to move the bulk of there expansion "downhill" and the "extraordinary mitigation measures" that were incorporated into the MIMP.  building a surgery pavilion at the top of the hill on Children's property is not consistent with a number of the statements that Children's made in the adopted MIMP.   
The eastern edge1 of Children’s property is at the highest elevation of the entire property. The proposed Surgery Pavilion would be sited on the eastern edge. In other words, the Pavilion is proposed to be sited as high “uphill” as Children’s site allows. This is opposite of the development conditions indicating that new hospital additions to the existing campus should be sited “downhill.”   
The Master Plan will primarily utilize the lower elevations of the expanded campus for new development.  The majority of the new buildings will be located on the lowest areas of the expanded hospital campus and closest to Sand Point Way NE and 40th Avenue NE on Laurelon Terrace. 2010 MIMP, page 42. 
While the 2010 MIMP did show a potential parking garage near the corner of 44th Ave. NE and NE 50th Street, a garage is not a hospital facility.

Other neighbors submitted these comments to the City:
I am concerned about the level of landscape screening present along 44th Ave NE. As it is now, there are several bare spots along the west side of the street that do not sufficiently hide the parking lot. As many of the homes on 44th Ave NE, including mine, are perched up from the street, I am also concerned about sight lines from first and second story windows of the residential houses on 44th Ave NE onto the new parking and surgery structure. This concern becomes more pronounced during dark hours as light from the buildings and parking surfaces reflect back at the houses. Maintaining the screening level at the current height will not be sufficient to block the view of the parking structure as well as shield the street from noise from the building's mechanical systems. Given that about half of the 75' setback is used for a road, I hope there is sufficient room for screening. If this screening does prove to be sufficient, please consider planting more and taller trees into the landscaping area. 
I live in North Laurelhurst. With all the development that has gone on, and continues, the details revealed for the development on the NW corner of the campus are extraordinarily out of sync with all that has been going on. What on earth is the idea of using a 75 ft. buffer (along 44th Ave NE) to become a two lane road? In this case, how does it then ever meet the definition of "buffer"? Why is the parking garage not to be sunk into the property? This would be one step in lowering the impact on North Laurelhurst which is supposed to always be paramount.


LCC submitted these concerns and comments:
In accordance with the City Council bill from April 5th, 2010, and the Settlement Agreement  (Feb 2010) that was agreed upon which allowed the hospital to add 2.1 million square feet of new buildings and parking, the role of LCC continues to be the compliance with "rules" that govern their Major Institution Master Plan, the MIMP. The overarching goal of both of these documents is to provide a balance of liveability for neighbors and allow growth for the needs of SCH. 
To date, LCC and the public have had real "process" problems with getting the information needed for analysis. SCH also had the "comment deadline" before the public viewed these plans at the SAC meeting! 
The EIS addendum is still in a format on their permit website that is locked out to the public as well as their document about proof of "Need" for the added surgery rooms and parking.  LCC has requested it 3 times, but they claim they cannot get "the Applicant" to fix it.   
The location of the development, the additional exit lane on Penny Drive and the large massing of the added buildings and parking , plus 17 feet of height for mechanical equipment will have visual and noise, and glare impacts on surrounding residences.  On this mechanical roof of the surgery what is the noise level predicted? Can it be mitigated? 
Neighbors want to ensure that it respects the promised 75 foot "setback" around the campus where it is adjacent to residences. One question that the City should answer is what is the purpose of a setback, and what is allowed in it by code? 
There is more hardscape added in the NW campus for new buildings and an added access road and a new turnaround along the NE corner of the site for "access" vehicles. Residences are located along 44th Avenue NE and 45th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street and a new two lane road is planned to be located in the 75 foot buffer, a requirement in the Conditions of the MIMP for its approval. Cannot the new buildings be made in a smaller footprint to comply with the green buffer along residential borders, and add the road , outside of the 75 foot green buffer?    
Since the original operating rooms have had issues with Aspergillums mold, what air quality emission controls will protect neighbors whose residences are located below the new surgery pavilion , albeit at a height 75 feet away from the buffer? How will toxic waste be removed? 
The elevations show a tall "wall " of structure along these residential streets when completed. What mitigation will reduce this visual barrier? What is the composition of trees. 
There will be over 390,000 square feet of new development, and the majority of the demo and construction will occur nearby the residences on NE 50th Street, 44th Avenue and 45th Avenue NE on a temporary road. How will the impacts from construction dust and noise and emission be controlled and mitigated for neighbors?   
Noise. tall lights, and seeing tall walls are something for neighbors to question, and better to do it now than after it is approved.

LCC sent out this information this week to neighbors:
Neighbors near Children’s along 45th Avenue NE and 44th Avenue NE between 45th Street NE and 50th Street NE will want to pay particular attention to Phase 3 plans. The additions will be highly visible on the northeast side of the Laurelhurst Children’s complex.

Some of key elements of the MIMP’s Phase 3 project include:
  1. Plans now show five phases instead of four, which were originally approved for the MIMP.
  2. A new surgery center called The Copper Surgery Pavilion is proposed at a height of 37 feet+ 15 feet for a mechanical penthouse along 44th Ave. NE with a service road in the setback area.
  3. One of the existing parking garages off Penny Drive will be demolished and three above-ground stories of parking will be added at the corner of NE 50th St. and 44th Ave NE for a total of 8 floors of parking. The project adds 500 parking spaces.
  4. An elevated sky bridge is proposed to connect the new parking garage with the Copper Surgery Pavilion at the eastern boundary.
  5. A drop off tunnel is planned in the new parking garage.
  6. The total amount of new development is 621,324 square feet of building and “moving dirt” in Phase 3. However, much of it is exempt from being counted in the 2.1 million campus limits because it is counted as parking, underground (below grade) location, or is rooftop mechanical, allowed on 40 percent of the roof, over the allowable height. So the height is 37 feet for the two new buildings, plus 15 feet for added height for mechanical, which totals 52 feet height visible along 44th Ave. NE and NE 50th St. but also very visible from many other nearby locations.
  7. Penny Drive, the main road entrance off Sand Point Way NE, will be changed to connect the campus with the new buildings with a drop off in front of the Surgery Pavilion. In addition, with a special “No Protest” agreement with the City of Seattle, a second left-turn lane will be built into Penny Lane to ease exiting congestion.
  8. Also the new temporary exit for the Ocean garage for the clinics, etc will be re-routed onto NE 45th Street from 2021-2024. SCH is planning to hire professional flaggers to help the exit the Seattle Children’s users onto this very busy street.
  9. A temporary construction road is planned to be built from Sand Point Way NE through NE 50th St. and 44th Ave NE.
  10. A paved permanent access road in the 75-foot mandatory buffer is planned along 44th Ave. NE and NE 50th St. with a hard surface turnaround.
Phase 3 is governed in accordance with the Seattle City Council Clerk File #308884, dated April 5th, 2010, and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) and SCH Settlement Agreement, recorded with the City on February 3, 2010. After the original expansion plans were denied by the Hearing Examiner, the Settlement Agreement was negotiated and agreed upon by both parties which allowed the hospital to add 2.1 million square feet of new buildings and parking for the duration of 20 years, (to 2030), in four phases. 
In addition, to the physical development, the Seattle City Council bill includes a Transportation Management Plan (TMP) that established a requirement that SCH must meet before each phase of its development is approved, established the maximum single occupancy vehicles (SOV) allowed on campus, commuting goals, and regulates on-site and off-site parking to reduce the impacts on the surrounding, mostly residential, neighborhoods. The approved MIMP also established development standards, added a 75-foot setback around three sides of the SCH campus next to the neighbors’ homes, changed the existing allowable heights, required an increase in on-campus parking and authorized the demolition of the Laurelon condominiums for their new and taller buildings along NE 45th St .and Sand Point Way NE. 
LCC supports the mission of SCH to provide growth in its excellent pediatric health care. LCC also must review the proposed plans at each development phase to ensure that it is in compliance with the requirements governing both the Settlement Agreement and Major Institution Master Plan.
For more information on the project go here.