The Development Standard Advisory Committee deliberates over whether to grant the departure for a Frantz Coe Elementary three-story addition on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
The Development Standard Advisory Committee deliberates over whether to grant the departure for a Frantz Coe Elementary three-story addition on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

A Development Standard Advisory Committee formed by the City of Seattle to assess a departure request for a new three-story classroom addition at Frantz Coe Elementary recommended the project move forward on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

The design process will continue through early fall, and construction is slated to begin next year. The addition will include two new multipurpose learning spaces and an office.

Nelson Pesigan, coordinator for the Department of Neighborhoods’ Major Institutions and Schools program, facilitated the meeting.

“Most schools are located in single-family neighborhoods; the land-use code does not include a ‘school zone,’” Pesigan said. “Renovations and additions often times will not meet the underlying zoning, therefore public schools can request exemptions, known as departures, from the land use code. This committee is an opportunity for neighbors and the surrounding community to give the city feedback whether to allow departures. The committee can recommend the grant, grant with condition, or deny the requested departures.”

Project architect Corrie Rosen with Mahlum informed the committee in a presentation that the departure request went hand-in-hand with the school’s enrollment.

“In this case we are proposing a new three-story classroom addition on the east side of the existing building for six classrooms and shared learning, and this is what we are requesting the departure for,” Rosen said. “The intent of this, really, is to address the current overcrowded conditions in the existing facility.”

Frantz Coe Elementary principal Virginia Turner said that her enrollment has been in the mid-500s or greater for years now. Because of this, the addition is only designed to help the school function.

“So really, super important to community members to know: This project, this addition, is not meant to increase our enrollment,” Turner said. “That’s super important. It’s only done to allow us to normally use the building… we just want to fit in the building.”

Rosen made it clear to the committee that the proposed addition would not alter bus or vehicle loading, or the play space for students. The addition was designed with the original building’s features in mind, she said.

“This shouldn’t feel like this brand-new thing that has been attached to the building, but rather it should be very respectful of the existing fabric.”

According to Seattle Municipal code, officials may build on an existing school site as long as it’s an addition. However, if the addition is at least 50 feet tall, the required setback from the street must be 20 feet deep, which the design team was able to account for.

The Development Standard Advisory Committee was tasked to ensure that the proposed addition was compatible with the character and use of its surroundings. The committee evaluated the character and scale of the proposed addition; inventoried whatever setbacks, major arterials, topographic breaks and similar features that surround the addition; ensured that the location and design of the altered structure would reduce the appearance of bulk; assessed the impacts of traffic, noise, circulation and parking in the area; and determined how the addition would impact housing and open space.

The project also includes curb ramps and companion ramps at necessary intersections around the facility. Most of the corners at the intersection of West Smith Street and Sixth Avenue West will see this kind of improvement.

During public comment, there was concern that the current HVAC system for the school was a bit too loud for some in the surrounding area. The committee suggested an operational recommendation that the school administration adequately integrate the existing HVAC system into the addition, to maintain a balance that hopefully will cut down on noise.

Committee member Camilla Yamada expressed concern that the current student drop-off/pick-up system causes too much traffic congestion in the area. To alleviate this, the committee recommends the school administration issue reminders and operational messages regularly to parents, urging them to become familiar with existing school traffic plans and procedures.