West Bay residents raise concerns about senior housing towers proposed on waterfront

About 30 people attended a city of Olympia meeting on Wednesday to learn more and ask questions about a proposal to build additional housing on the shores of West Bay.

The proposal is called the West Bayview Landing Senior Living Apartments at 2000 West Bay Drive NW, which is in the area of West Bay Drive and Schneider Hill Road Northwest. The site is just north of the future site of West Bay Yards, a 478-unit mixed-use housing development.

The senior living proposal includes 242 apartments, spread largely among three, five-story buildings, with 161 parking stalls, as well as a fourth building that is described a community space with some living units.

The city has received a notice of application about the project and the next step was Wednesday’s project information meeting, which was held online. The development team attended, as well as city staff and about 30 residents; more than a dozen asked questions.

In addition to those who spoke, the city had received 30-40 written comments as of Wednesday morning, mostly from residents opposed to the project, Associate Planner Jackson Ewing told The Olympian. That’s one thing Ewing wanted to make clear at the top of the meeting: Often residents will ask whether the city even has to consider the proposal, he said.

“The city has to consider any proposal that is submitted and review it against codes and ordinances,” he said. “We treat any development application the same way and apply the regulations fairly.”

The Pacific Northern Construction Co. of Tukwila, which owns the property through a limited liability company, is also the developer on the project, said Bryan Park, president of the construction company.

Pacific Northern is the private development partner of the Senior Housing Assistance Group, better known as SHAG, which often runs TV commercials that feature former Seattle Mariners manager Lou Pinella.

Park said they developed the Boardwalk apartments near the farmers market in downtown Olympia, held them for about 15 years then sold the development.

The West Bay units would provide independent living to seniors that cater to a range of incomes, he said. About 20 percent of the units will be for those who earn 50 percent or less of the area median income, while most of remaining units will be for those at between 80 percent and 50 percent of the area median income. Some units, too, will be reserved for those with higher incomes, Park said.

The project is targeting soon-to-retire state workers, he said.

After a staff overview of the project on Wednesday evening, residents asked questions about noise, views, traffic, sea level rise, stormwater and whether there was any legacy pollution on the site.

Here’s how the city and development team responded to some of those questions:

On noise: The development team acknowledged that pilings will be pounded into the ground prior to building, but they expect that work to take place over just a few months.

On views: No building will be taller than 65 feet — heights are limited to 65 feet in the area zoned urban waterfront — and there will be open space between each building, architect Jean Morgan said.

On traffic: A roundabout is planned for the intersection at West Bay Drive and the bottom of Schneider Hill Road, as well as wider sidewalks, a wider bike path and public access to a waterfront trail that will be part of the development, traffic engineer Jeff Schramm said. Pacific Northern’s Park added that senior housing has shown to generate fewer traffic trips compared to market-rate housing, plus the development will provide private transit for shopping and other errands.

On sea level rise: The city does have sea level rise regulations associated with new development, Associate Planner Ewing said.

On stormwater: Because the site was previously used to store construction materials, stormwater will need to be treated before it is released into Budd Inlet, Ewing said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the development site is on the former Hardel Plywood business parcel, but part of it is. Hardel burned down decades ago.

Park acknowledged that after they learned a former saw mill operated on the site, they undertook their own two-phase environmental assessment of the property, including soil samples. That report came back virtually clean, he said, adding that he was surprised by the results.

“There was no significant detection of pollution on the site,” he said.

One reason the property was “virtually clean” is that the Hardel site was cleaned up in 2010, The Olympian reported.

But not everyone was happy with the answers they heard Wednesday night.

Resident Lisa Riner scoffed at the notion that senior citizens generate fewer traffic trips, saying they need to go to the doctor and elsewhere. She also wondered why other agencies hadn’t come forward to “stop the debacle that is being put forward.”

“A lot of us are very unhappy,” she said.

There’s more work to be done, associate planner Ewing said.

That includes reviewing the proposal against the city’s comprehensive plan, city code, the state Environmental Policy Act, and the city’s shoreline master program. It also needs a shoreline substantial development permit because the work is taking place within 200 feet of the ordinary high-water mark, he said.

There’s still time to comment. The first comment period doesn’t end until June 20. Send comments to Associate Planner Jackson Ewing at jewing@ci.olympia.wa.us.

The project information meeting for West Bayview Landing Senior Living Apartments was held Wednesday.
The project information meeting for West Bayview Landing Senior Living Apartments was held Wednesday.

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