RPLA | Rubenkonig Planning & Landscape Architecture Metro Seattle

Staircase Descending an Environmental Critical Area to Access Waterfront

This RPLA project proposed to replace an unsafe staircase and landing. Straightforward proposal except for its location in an Environmental Critical Area. The City of Seattle’s position is to protect such areas from development, yet if development is to occur, minimize its impact.

Replacing an existing structure may be a more expedient process than proposing a different placement for a new structure. With the ECA areas delineated on our plans, along with the surveyed location of the existing stairs, we met with the staff of the Department of Planning and Development for a Pre-Submittal Conference. The wetlands report, the survey, and photographs of the site was our evidence to support our position. At this meeting one of the issues  addressed was whether the previous area of disturbance for stair and landing construction was the same footprint as the proposed structure. As the proposal is below a threshold figure there was a request for an ECA Exemption.

Project Concept: 

Replace existing steps and path from the patio about 50 feet down the slope to the top of the existing steps. Lack of access from the top, forced materials to be barged to the waterfront pier and assembled and stored on the flatter area of the beach.

As part of any solution, we needed to look at construction:

  • Access issues required we looked at barging materials into the site
  • Ease of construction on the hillside, weight of materials on the hillside
  • Aesthetics --how do materials co-exist with house architecture
  • Steps can be easily replaced or maintained in the future
  • Cost, and cost of construction
  • Does the proposed design fit into the existing landscape (use of transparent steps) 

Easily, the photos paint a thousand words and we found this to be an astoundingly successful project.

The clients are very happy with the new stairwell that allows them to safely and comfortably traverse the steep slope to their waterfront. The transparent design allows the dense foliage of the hillside landscape to interact with the new stairs. 



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