Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Photo courtesy of the city of Mercer Island

Luther Burbank docks replacement project is back in the spotlight

Concept design will be transmitted to the city council.

About a month after the Luther Burbank Docks Subcommittee presented its draft preferred concept plan to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission for review, the docks replacement project was back in the spotlight at an April 1 virtual commission meeting.

Paul West, the Mercer Island capital projects and planning manager, explained that the subcommittee held its fourth meeting on March 10 — a week after last gathering with the commission — and made slight adjustments to the design based on the discussion with the commission.

The elements of the design that went under the subcommittee’s revision lens were covered areas, new tree quantity and locations, bulkhead steps and watercraft and non-boater access.

The subcommittee’s plan addresses environmental quality and sustainability, preservation of the area’s uniqueness and more for the docks, which were built in 1974 and have an estimated five remaining years of useful service left, according to the city. The city aims to repurpose the berths in the next four years.

According to the review plan, the subcommittee chose to withhold adding a seasonal or permanent covered area to the plan because it feels that portable canopies are a good fit for the boating programs, which are proposed to utilize the outdoor classroom area situated on the top of the restrooms.

On replacing the existing trees at the southeast corner of the plaza, the subcommittee recommended that one or two trees — as opposed to the three that were originally suggested — be planted at the site. If they were all to grow full size, three would take up too much space.

As for the bulkhead steps leading to the water, there were concerns about them being a fall hazard for children or dogs. Staff noted that the steps will be designed to code to likely address that concern.

“The aesthetics of these steps is going to be important as well as the environmental safety and functional interaction with the Handsome Bollards,” West said. “We’ve got a lot of design work to do on these steps to make them actually work.”

There was a robust discussion regarding watercraft and non-boater access to the docks. Commission member Don Cohen noted that while the water element of the project is focusing on enhancing watercraft use, non-boaters — including those who like to fish — are important in the overall plan as well.

Commission member Rory Westberg spoke on this part of plan on behalf of the subcommittee: “We hope that once the docks are restored and we have replacement docks for the south pier, that it will be attractive to all types of users, including non-boating users.”

Following the subcommittee’s presentation, the seven commission members unanimously approved both the concept design for recommendation to the city council, and the recommendation memo that will then give the chair or his designee authorization to transmit it to the city council.

According to a plan document, “The memo recommends that the PRC (Parks and Recreation Commission) and the City Council revisit the design again at 30% completion. That milestone is expected in fall of 2021, although earlier consultation with the PRC and the Arts Council may occur to facilitate design development.”

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