Monday, October 26, 2020

Today Final Day To Comment On Hospital's Phase 2 Construction Impacting North Laurelhurst

Children's Hospital has submitted plans for 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.

The public is encouraged to submit comments to the City for  project 3036201-LU by EOD today to 

The original comment date was extended according to Maureen, with Seattle Neighborhoods, Major Institutions and Schools Coordinator, who said: 

SDCI has determined that based on the comments received by public on the unavailability of documents for review that the Project Copper proposal should be re-noticed. Please see the re-notice here

The next SAC meeting to review this project will not occur until the re-notice comment period or extended comment period has closed.

Here is a pre-recorded presentation on the project. And here is the presentation from Monday's SAC meeting.

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.
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.
While SCH posted the public comment deadline of August 26, 2020, the public was not able to see or hear about the plans until the SAC meeting on August 31, 2020. In its permit application on the SDCI website, the EIS addendum and Statement of Need, which contain valuable information for the analysis, were not accessible to the public to view. LCC requested the documents three times and the Applicant was notified by the City to fix the files for public access; unfortunately, the detailed analytical documents needed were not available to the public for more than three weeks after the signs were up to notify neighbors. LCC requested and received a 14-day extension to prepare comments, which are now due by September 9th.  
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. 
When the MIMP was approved, it also created the Standing Advisory Committee (the SAC), which reviews these plans and phases to add feedback and ensure compliance with the terms of the MIMP governing rules set by the City from the Hearing Examiner. Many Laurelhurst residents serve on this board to represent the whole neighborhood. The meeting to review the Phase 3 was August 31, 2020, at which many details of Phase 3 were revealed. 
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.

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