Park(ing) Day

Park(ing) Day 2015“On the Boardwalk” was the theme of J.A. Brennan’s parklet for the 10th year of Park(ing) Day on September 18. Park(ing) Day is celebrated nation-wide annually on the third Friday of September. What’s special is that it’s a chance for cities to re-imagine the location of public green space in non-traditional areas. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to provide crucial amenities of planting, refuge, and a space for communities to interact in all areas – especially those that lack permanent open space within dense urban fabric.

parking day boardwalkThe J.A. Brennan team brainstormed how to replicate some our office’s typical projects – wetland habitat restoration, shoreline design, urban green spaces, and street design – and synthesized these aspects into “On the Boardwalk.” Our parklet combined playful, whimsical elements and a pseudo-wetland boardwalk installation.

psuedo-wetlandPartnering with Green Feathers/Live Roof was our jumping off point. They offered us pallets of green roof plants that we chose to simulate wetland vegetation. Vine maples added height and represent the native vegetation we typically work with. The boardwalk made from salvaged wood pallets was our chance for fun, painting it in cheerful colors to draw people in.

More than the ultimate design, however, this was so much fun for the team involved in the design and build process. Donated time and materials contributed to making it a welcoming and engaging space. There were weekend work parties:

Weekend work party

And a fun day spent meeting the great people and animals in our Pioneer Square neighborhood:

Park visitors

puppy park visistorThe local news even stopped by to check out what all the fuss was about!

Creative Approaches to Implementing Public Access Amenities


by Mike Perfetti

J.A. Brennan has had the pleasure to work with the staff of the City of Seattle Shoreline Street Ends Program, a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) group, which turns lost, derelict, and often utility-laden street ends into shoreline pocket parks.  The goal of the program is to enable greater access to our water bodies, to create a shoreline environment where people can spend some time enjoying the water, and to improve shoreline habitat conditions.  Communities play an important part in this program as well, getting involved with project initiation, the design process, and in street end maintenance.

We’re in the midst of designing nine street ends on shorelines throughout the city and on several water bodies including the Duwamish River, the Ship Canal, Portage Bay, Lake Union and Lake Washington.  The first two projects, both on Lake Washington, are due to be completed this week –51st Ave. NE in Laurelhurst and South Willow St. in Seward Park.  The work is being done by the Seattle Conservation Corps (SCC).

P:SDOT Street EndsCADProject 1SheetsSSE - Project1_sheets 1

This program receives revenue from street end use permit fees.  One of the challenges is to make the most out of a relatively small purse, creating designs that enable the City’s funding to be allocated appropriately among each of the nine street ends.  The designs need to meet City and community goals, be appropriate to the sites, and match maintenance capabilities.  The project cost estimates range from about $10,000 to $50,000.  Here are three ways in which we worked creatively to steward funds:


One of the ways is to look comprehensively at the effects of permitting on project implantation and to provide the City with design pathways that avoid extensive permitting where possible, which enables faster implementation.  Being shoreline sites, many of the street end projects face timing and cost challenges with shoreline and in-water work permitting.  The project goals and site conditions at some sites make applying for these permits inevitable.  For other sites, we presented design solutions that avoided or minimized permit costs and delays, which is the case at both 51st and Willow.

51st 3


Secondly, we established a design–build relationship with the SCC.  On the two completed sites, where we lacked solid survey information, we developed our own base mapping and provided 30% to 50% design documents, enough for the SCC to put a price to.  We coordinated with the construction crew through construction to make field adjustments and finesse design detailing.  The adjustments in the field produced cost-saving, site-responsive results.

Creative Use of On-site Materials

Thirdly, we focused our designs and adjustments during the construction process to save costs through the creative use of on-site materials.  At the S. Willow St., a large rock seawall was refashioned into a rock stairway to the beach; at 51st, wood guardrail posts were reused as beach access stairs.

Ready to Enjoy

The Willow Street End is open to the public and the 51st Street End is nearly open. The plan is to build three more access sites in 2015, and four in 2016. Artist Sam Trout will create unique place-making art elements and new shoreline access signs for the sites.

Winners of the Urban Design Scavenger Hunt

By Chris Nack

Back in September, J.A. Brennan participated in the Urban Design Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by our friends at MAKERS Architecture and Urban Design during the Seattle Design Festival.  The hunt led us all over the city to find the places portrayed in historic photos.  We did the best we could to interpret the locations. Our reward for winning first place: Volumes I-III of Seattle Now and Then!

Here are some of the images our team submitted.

Post Alley

Post Alley Gum Art


South Lake Union

The Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library

Our waterfront in transition!

Our waterfront in transition!


City Hall


Freeway Park




Development and celebration at the North Lot

Dune Fencing: Practical and Beachy

Protected plantings_IMG_2844

Protective dune fencing at Odlin Park

by Mike Perfetti, Senior Associate, Landscape Architect

One challenge we face on many public park projects is protecting newly installed plants from being trampled by park users.  (Another challenge is preventing plants from being devoured by wildlife!)  Recently we worked with Davido Consulting Group at San Juan County’s Odlin Park to design renovations to an extremely popular waterfront campground.

Odlin Park - Rendered plan

The design relocates the campground road away from the beach and creates walk-in campsites in areas that were once pull-in (car) sites.

Previously, the beach sites were strung together, tents, and portable shelters packed in against one another.  Cars parked in all sorts of configurations within the sites.  Though patches of dune grass prevailed around user trails, the grass was unable to expand, limited by the expansive human footprint.

Walk in site_IMG_2814

With the renovations, we used native shoreline plants to create more privacy between the beach sites.  The restored vegetation on the shoreline also enhances habitat and reduces erosion.  The beach sites don’t have irrigation and budget was an issue during design, so it was important to take a restoration approach, using smaller plant material.

It will take some time for the smaller plants to become established and substantial enough to achieve their desired effect.  In anticipation of this time lag, we designed a pattern of dune fencing to protect the plants and delineate use zones.  After one jam-packed camping season and record-breaking heat, the shoreline planting areas are doing well.

kayakers_Odlin Park - Rendered plan

Shore pines, Nootka Rose and Dune grass will eventually form thickets of semi-shady beach plantings, their scent mixing with the salt air and helping to break the wind as campers stoke the beach fires.


In the meantime, the dune fencing will provide some of that function, creating an aura that is distinctly beachy, a welcome improvement from the cluster of vehicles and the unabated camp stuff that used to sprawl across the shoreline at Odlin Park.

Culturally Sensitive Design

by Jim Brennan

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan’s scenic east coast again and present at a symposium.  I have been involved with tourism planning for the East Coast Tourism Bureau for the past 15 years and previously worked on development of the Green Island Master Plan.

The S.E. Coast of Taiwan is experiencing increased visitation of tourists from mainland China.  The rapid growth in tourism and resulting encroachments on tribal lands and traditional use areas is creating negative impacts to Taiwan’s aboriginal community.  At the symposium, I presented concepts for culturally sensitive design and discussed processes to involve the native community.  I worked with Joe Lee of ECG International, a partner firm, to explore and present case study projects that successfully express cultural identity.

As the first discussion, the symposium served as a starting point for the long-term goal, which is to find common ground that leads to mutually beneficial solutions for the government, tribes, and developers.

Jim and Joe Lee.

Jim and Joe Lee.

There will be lots of hard work to get to a win / win outcome.  The director of the East Coast Scenic Area was impressed with the progress made during the meeting.  We expect that the plan resulting from this process will protect tribal interests and improve Taiwan’s scenic east coast for all visitors.


Appreciating My Local Greenbelt

By Drew Coombs, Landscape Architect

kids on trail 2

I live in the Shorewood neighborhood, on the southwest edge of Seattle at the Burien border.  We are fortunate that we have two or three locations within walking distance where we are able to access a peaceful natural forest setting.

Experiencing the Greenbelt

One of my favorite walks is down Seola Beach Drive and through Seola Park.  This a loop walk through the neighborhood and offers a variety of experiences, from a rural street condition to a nature trail through the forest canopy.  The trail provides framed views to the water and leads up to a small neighborhood park at the top of the ravine, perfect for picnicking or exploring a wonderful eucalyptus tree.


As the two lane street descends towards the Puget Sound, it follows the bottom of a tree-covered ravine.  The canopy is primarily comprised of second growth alder, big leaf maple, madrona, and some conifers.   A seasonal stream runs along the edge of one side of the street.  At the low point of the ravine the sound of water flowing and gurgling is evident during the wet season, which adds to the special character of this setting.  There is a sense of being in a natural riparian corridor as one travels towards the water.


The rim of the ravine is lined with single family homes.  The landscape in the ravine is plagued with invasive plants.   The usual suspects: ivy, clematis, and blackberries are the invasive culprits.  These aggressive vines climb many of the trees, robbing them of nutrients and light, which can kill them.    wheelbarrow

Positive Changes

In recent walks we have started to notice positive changes in the health of the understory. The ivy is slowly being removed, and pockets of newly planted native species, mulched with bark, have popped up.  It’s apparent that action is being taken to reclaim the greenbelt.

Ava and James at work

Ava and James at work


Green Seattle Partnership

I have volunteered my time on a couple occasions to assist Seattle Parks and the Green Seattle Partnership with restoration work in the Seola corridor.  Most recently, I assisted our local forest steward by placing bark mulch in the pocket park at the top of the ravine.  In the Fall I helped plant native plants.

Teaching Green Values to My Kids

I have taken my kids (3 and 6) to help out during these volunteer projects.  At each event, they first have a high interest in assisting, but after an hour and a half, boredom does set in.  Of course, my productivity is impacted, but the tradeoff is acceptable to me.   The idea of instilling community service values and showing the kids firsthand how to preserve and enhance an urban forest is important to me as a landscape architect and a parent.

forest steward

I want to acknowledge the efforts of Seattle’s forest stewards.  Without them, Seattle would be a less green place.