Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Give Input Now On Talaris Proposed Development

The public comment period is open through 4:30pm tomorrow to submit input on the proposed Talaris Subdivision redevelopment. 

The comment deadline was extended due to the City not initially listing the deadline on the Proposed Land Use Sign in front of Talaris ( 4000 NE 41st Street). 

The extension was requested by the counsel for the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) due to Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections' (SDCI's) inaccuracies, and lack of posting, twice. LCC also noted to the City of Seattle, that the process of notifying local neighbors and the public wasn't consistent with the code, and what was posted on the large sign nearest the bus stop on NE 41st street was partially blank, and not accurate. 

LCC wrote in a letter to SDCI: 
As of 12 noon on October 1, 2018, the notice sign posted along NE 41st Street on the eastern side of the Talaris property, a key location for providing actual notice to the community, did not include the required deadline for submission of comments by the public. Instead, the deadline part of the notice was blank, as if the comment period had not yet commenced.  
The text of the Notice available through the DCI portal states that under the proposal “Existing buildings to remain.” This statement is inaccurate, misleading, and will distort public comment on the proposal.  
In fact, the large sign informs: “5 buildings to remain. 2 buildings to be demolished.” Further, other statements have suggested that under the proposal only two buildings will remain.  
The DCI descriptions of required approvals also differ. The large sign lists “Environmental Review” and “Department of Neighborhoods” approvals, but the LUIB Notice lists “Full Subdivision” and “SEPA Environmental Determination” as the required approvals.

Comments can be sent to, referencing Master Permit 3030811, including your name and address, faxed to 206-233-7901 or mailed to the below address

The Seattle Department of Constructions and Inspections (SDCI) contact is Jeremy Febus at 206-795-8953 and the Planner is Lindsay King: 206-684-9218.

Mailing address:
Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections
ATTN: Public Resource Center
700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019
FAX 206-233-7901

The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) was reportedly sold to Quadrant Homes in January, which proposes to build 68 single-family homes on large lots that could sell for about $2 million each, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times and Daily Journal of Commerce.

The Application for a Master Use Permit (MUP) filed by Bellevue-based Quadrant Homes is for a subdivision of the site into 68 parcels of single-family home sites of 5,000-square-foot each and six larger tracts. Only five of the seven existing landmark buildings would remain. The two buildings that would be demolished would be Building G, the cascading building nearest to NE 41st Street, and the Lodge Building E, at the end of the eastern driveway.

The underlying zoning is for either an institute for advanced study, or single family homes with a 5,000 square foot lot.

The Laurelhurst Community Club urges the community to let the City know your thoughts and concerns about this proposal including: 
Tree Protection
Traffic Impacts
Public School Capacity
Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat
Landmark Landscape and Buildings
Key Elements Missing from Plan
Home-owner Association

LCC has submitted comments for the community, but encourages all neighbors to comment on the proposed subdivision aspect, not suggesting it should be made into a park, as LCC said that is an owner decision, and isn't relevant to the City of Seattle, nor governed by its jurisdiction on a land use permit application.

LCC suggests that comments can cover issues such as :
1. The Arborist Report which documents substantial tree removals needed
2. Traffic impacts and interior and exterior circulation
3. Public school capacity
4.Wetlands impacts
5. Landmark preservation impacts by removing 2 buildings
6. Wildlife habitat impacts
7. The size and scale of construction of 64+ homes
8. Parking capacity within the property and adequacy for uses in remaining buildings
9. Unknown potential uses for remaining existing buildings
10. Establishing a "gated" home owner association with homes located in an open, existing neighborhood

LCC wrote recently wrote about the proposed development:
The November 2013 Landmark Designation adopted for the site encompasses all of the buildings (designed by William Bain, Sr.) and the entire site landscape (designed by Richard Haag). It is not clear how 68 lots will be shoehorned onto a site whose buildings and site landscaping have all been given landmark designation. The proposal for intense subdivision development is inherently inconsistent with preservation of the site buildings and landmark-designated landscape. 
Per the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance, once a site is designated as a landmark, controls and incentives are applied and govern the site's development. However, at the site owner's request, the City has repeatedly delayed - for five years - negotiation and adoption of controls and incentives for the Talaris site. 
The land is owned privately, and it not a public . A few years ago, the owner put up a chain link fence and security cameras to restrict access to what was a shared experience between the neighborhood and the various institutes who operated on the campus. 
Over the past 50 years, LCC has worked with several owners, and has seen many options for recent new development. Each possible option has potential impacts that will need to be studied. 
Currently, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods governs the Landmark Preservation Board, which consists of 12 members -architects, historians, real estate developers, engineers, and citizens at large. The Seattle Landmark Preservation Board would have to approve any deviation from retaining all of the 7 building exteriors, or changes to the landscaping before the Quadrant subdivision could build this many homes. That board will decide on the preservation issues that arise from the Quadrant plans. They have not officially met and voted on this proposal as of this week.

In LCC's June newsletter it said:

LCC Guidelines for Talaris Redevelopment 
Based in part on recommendations from the architect commissioned several years ago to assess the Talaris property, LCC guidelines for any development are: 1) Maintain and retain open space, landscaping, and existing tree canopy as well as the character of the site 2) Protect, enhance, and preserve wetlands 3) Remove cyclone fencing around the property 4) Create a welcoming environment for neighbors 5) Protect the eagles’ nest 6) Respect landmark designation of landscaping and buildings n Install native plants to replace invasive species, especially native plants that provide food and/or cover for native fauna species 7) Establish a governance and maintenance management plan for the property, including the use planned for both existing and new buildings 8) Identify uses of non-residential buildings that are landmarked 9) Control traffic impacts of new development including any changes to egress 10) Install sidewalk along NE 41st St. boundary according to city standards (the city required this in the last proposal) 11) Inform buyers that this property is a designated earthquake liquefaction zone, plan buildings accordingly, and prepare for the eventuality of an earthquake and its impact on the sewer system 12) Work closely with LCC as plans move forward With the property’s landmark designation for buildings and landscape, it remains uncertain how plans currently proposed by Quadrant Homes will pan out. Any walk through the grounds illustrates that preserving the integrity of the natural setting and building 65 homes are two very different objectives. The City wants to hear from you, and the more comments submitted will bring more scrutiny to the process!

The site, built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute. In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000. The county has assessed the property at $14 million and sold in 2000 for $15.6 million.

The property, when sold several decades ago, included an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel. The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc). And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.

The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

For decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricade, fence on northwest side and a surveillance camera. Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed.

The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site forover 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development. LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance.

LCC's other priorities in partnering with the owners are maintaining open space, the eagle's habitat and valuable mature trees, supporting and enhancing property values and character of the entire Laurelhurst neighborhood and minimizing traffic impacts on all neighborhood streets and access points.

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