A letter about The Hole, and more, from Southwest District Council

April 8, 2010 at 9:11 am | In Southwest District Council, West Seattle news | 48 Comments

“We need to start the conversation,” said Susan Melrose of the West Seattle Junction Association at last night’s Southwest District Council meeting, as she proposed a letter “on behalf of the entire West Seattle community” to try to get something done about safety and aesthetics issues at The Hole (the stalled-and-lawsuit-embroiled development site at Fauntleroy/Alaska/38th). “The development is clearly not going anywhere,” Melrose noted, “and it’s a major safety hazard sitting on that corner … It’s time to take steps to improve that situation … It would be great if the West Seattle community could speak with one voice” to express that concern.

She brought this draft letter; the plan to send a letter based on that one (with a few tweaks) was unanimously approved. But the issue of who it will be addressed to was the subject of some discussion and debate. Suggestions for addressees included virtually every elected official in the city, from the mayor to councilmembers to the city attorney, as well as multiple agencies, and of course, the various concerns believed to be potentially responsible for the hole itself.

Particular points of concern include the chain-link fence ringing the site, the condition of the sidewalk around The Hole, and the triangle of city-owned parkland that’s now fenced off. What kind of fence they’d like to see instead, council reps agreed would be up for discussion; the original wording of the letter suggests painted plywood, but from the audience, Mike Heavey, representing County Councilmember Jan Drago‘s office, said that might be more dangerous than the chain link, since “you can’t see what’s on the other side” – visitors might not be aware, for example, about the four-story drop. The current fence has some screening material that’s now tagged, observed SWDC co-chair Erica Karlovits of the Junction Neighborhood Organization, and council members thought that would be worth pointing out to the city, who could order the property owner(s) to clean it up. Whatever the wording, said Vlad Oustimovitch of the Fauntleroy Community Association (and briefly a onetime consultant to a former party to the project), “the important thing is to point out there’s a health and safety issue (at the site) and something should be done.” We’ll update you when the final version of the letter is complete (again, here’s the draft); also, we’re working on an unrelated story about the site, which you’ll see here later today/tonight if breaking news doesn’t interrupt.

ALSO FROM THE SOUTHWEST DISTRICT COUNCIL MEETING: What City Council President Richard Conlin had to say about the budget battles (and a funding vote that may come before you next year), and other assorted notes – read on:

That’s our lone photo from the meeting – Conlin’s at left, with White Center/Seattle annexation advocates Lois Schipper and Don Malo at right. We reported on their presentation at partner site White Center Nowsee the story here. Right before that, Conlin’s remarks and Q/A had more than a few notes of interest:

BUDGET BEWARE: Last year, the city hashed out a budget with what Conlin described as “no (major effects) visible to the public,” but this year, he said, will be a different story: “Unfortunately a lot of the things we did in 2010 are one-time fixes and not repeatable for 2011. We will keep the lights on, we will keep basic programs going, but some things will be noticeable” – though he insisted the specifics are yet to be determined. He did say (as we tweeted during the meeting) he suspects the Parks Department “is going to be the one hurt the most” by the cuts. (See our report from the last Parks Board meeting.) As mentioned here yesterday, two public meetings to help shape the budget are coming up.

LIBRARY FUNDING VOTE IN 2012? Conlin singled out the Seattle Public Library as something that needs a “more sustainable funding source … an independent funding source to make it a little more immune to the winds of budget change.” He mentioned a proposal along those lines is likely to go to voters in 2012.

SOUTH PARK BRIDGE: SWDC co-chair Chas Redmond (from the Morgan Community Association) asked what the city can do to help the businesses that are likely to suffer when the county permanently closes the bridge June 30th. Conlin didn’t offer any specifics but did mention, regarding the ongoing search for money to build a new bridge, “It’s kind of sad that it’s come down to this … I’ve been trying to get the city involved for a long time; we finally have a critical mass in the council ready to (try to help find funding” – toward that point, he mentioned the letter the council recently sent to the county, but acknowledged “There will be an interim period that’s extremely difficult for South Park business folks.”

‘BUY LOCAL’ CAMPAIGN: Conlin said the city has a Request For Proposals out for a “Buy Local” campaign, with funding available to Neighborhood Business Districts – more details here. (The Junction Association’s Melrose said they’re seeking a share.) He also talked about $60 million in New Markets Tax Credits that the city will be helping facilitate and is inviting businesses to apply for.

Other toplines from the meeting:

FIRST NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN PRESENTATION: With the ultimate goal of having at least one West Seattle neighborhood plan targeted for official updating down the line, the Southwest District Council is having presentations this spring from the three neighborhoods in its jurisdiction that got such plans back at the turn of the millennium – Admiral, Morgan Junction, and The (West Seattle/Alaska) Junction. Admiral Neighborhood Association rep Jim Del Ciello kicked off the series with a presentation about the Admiral plan (see the original plan here), focusing in particular on traffic/parking problems identified more than a decade ago yet still not solved today. But he also pointed to a big success – saying the Admiral Neighborhood Plan was extensively referred to during the five-meeting design review of the Admiral Safeway redevelopment. Next plan to be reviewed, Morgan Junction, at the May 5th meeting.

GENESEE SCHMITZ NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL: SWDC heard briefly from the acting chair of this new group, Dick Miller (we covered its organizational meeting last month), and celebrated its formation as a success – with one rep noting it’s a community council NOT borne of crisis, though the neighborhood certainly has a central issue of focus right now – the future of the Genesee Hill Elementary School site, empty this year after Pathfinder K-8 moved to Pigeon Point. GSNC has a website, Miller mentioned, but nobody knew the address – we hope to get that in e-mail later today, and will add it to this story (as well as to the Community Groups list in the WSB sidebar). 11:29 AM UPDATE: Here’s the link.

LAFAYETTE SPORTS SWAP: A reminder from the audience (there is a public comment period at SWDC meetings, so you are always welcome to show up and spent a moment talking about a topic of interest) that Lafayette Elementary is hoping to get “the whole West Seattle community involved” in the Sports Swap it’s organizing for later this month. You can donate sports equipment – ANY sport – to be used as their fundraiser for the ongoing playground-development project, or you can sell your gear on consignment. The swap itself is coming up April 25th, with dropoff two days earlier; tons of information on this page from the Lafayette website.

48 Comments

  1. Great letter! Good points. We’ve waited long enough.

    Comment by jsrekd — 9:24 am April 8, 2010 #

  2. something needs to happen to make it safer. Imagine that person at the bank last week mistaking the gas for the brake. now imagine they were parked at the bowling alley in front of the hole.

    Comment by HelperMonkey — 9:33 am April 8, 2010 #

  3. I have never been involved in any commercial development, but maybe its about time to require builders to post a bond before they dig a huge hole in the ground. It reminds me of the huge hole in the ground where QFC was going to go on Stoneway. If you can’t start building within 6 months of digging then we call in the bond and fill the hole and put in park benches.

    Comment by Carson — 9:34 am April 8, 2010 #

  4. Move mobile homes (single-wides) into the pit and have all the principles fighting this out in court move into the pit until the issues are resolved. Bet the process speeds up then!

    Comment by dawsonct — 9:46 am April 8, 2010 #

  5. Wonderful letter! Keep us informed as to what WE can do as a Community to get something done about this gaping hole & eyesore. I’ve certainly had enough of looking at it each time I drive into my beloved West Sesttle. Not the nicest greeting for visitors or residents.

    Comment by Cheryl — 9:47 am April 8, 2010 #

  6. The project is dead, for at least 5 to 10 years. In the MEAN TIME, PLEASE fill in the it and make it a parking lot or small park. Do NOT just leave a giant hole in the ground. I’m f**king sick of private companies digging out pits and just walking away when it doesn’t suit them to build anything. They should be required/bonded to return the land the surface state if their project is canceled.

    It’s INSANE out city has ENDLESS ENDLESS ENDLESS design meeting requirements where we debate every street front flashing and store entrance (re: new Safeway in Admiral) because we’re SO SO concerned about the building look and fit into the community…but we let companies dig BLOCK WIDE pits and just leave them for YEARS. What the hell!? Either these private companies can do WHATEVER they want with their land, or they have to comply with community standards, just be consistent. It’s annoying to watch 5 meetings over some apartment buildings paint color and trim, which is being built 2 blocks away from a giant super pit.

    Comment by Alki Area — 9:50 am April 8, 2010 #

  7. I know it’ll never happen, but it sure does seem like a great first step toward underground parking.

    Comment by zgh2676 — 9:50 am April 8, 2010 #

  8. This may sound goofy to some but I also get concerned when big holes like that fill with stagnant water that then becomes a mosquito-breeding haven Yuck.

    Comment by stb — 10:04 am April 8, 2010 #

  9. they forgot to add this at the end of the letter:
    .
    PS: Please put in a Trader Joe’s.
    .
    ;)

    Comment by HelperMonkey — 10:06 am April 8, 2010 #

  10. Buy sod. Rename it “The WS Hole Amphitheater” Wood fence with murals. Bill the principles.

    Rent it out for concerts and street fair booths.

    ?
    Profit!

    Comment by Ken — 10:11 am April 8, 2010 #

  11. Helper Monkey, you make me laugh. Thank you, Susan Melrose, for the great letter and the initiative to rally the community around this. It is time!

    Comment by CurlyQ — 10:14 am April 8, 2010 #

  12. Given Seattle’s financial crisis, why does the SCC support a resolution that will devote time and resources to yet more study of annexation? It’s been going on for 7 years. Wouldn’t Seattle tax payer dollars that are going to annexation be better spent on the parks, the libraries and the South Park Bridge?

    Comment by Liz — 10:19 am April 8, 2010 #

  13. I like dawsonct’s idea – a more fair form of forced mediation?

    Great letter – it should also be cc’d to Tracy Krawczyk at SDOT since it is a neighborhood, streets, pedestrian access issue.

    Comment by eileen — 10:25 am April 8, 2010 #

  14. I don’t know if I’ve seen it mentioned before – but what is the shoring situation? is the shoring just temporary construction shoring, or was the shoring installed as the final foundation wall?

    I ask because there is a crack in the road near the southwest corner of the site (right near the light pole). looking at google street view and google maps, it has been there a while, but I SWEAR it is getting worse since that big gaping hole was left there. is the ‘owner’ required to make inspections, take measurements, to make sure the settling isn’t too much of a hazard ?

    Comment by sam — 10:30 am April 8, 2010 #

  15. I’m still not clear what happened? How could funding for this be pulled by the bank when there are 2 fairly well known tenants confirmed to lease the whole space?

    Comment by DW — 10:31 am April 8, 2010 #

  16. Well said “Alki Area”, I couldn’t agree more.

    Comment by KT — 10:49 am April 8, 2010 #

  17. Sure, the hole is ugly, but folks need to understand how a business works. If it is not in the best financial interest of the owner to improve things, he/she will not do it. In my opinion, the only way this effort will be effective is to cite the landowner for specific law violations. If that cannot be done, I simply cannot see the owner spending one dime. I love West Seattle, too, but I don’t think that talking about aesthetics of an abandoned project will yield any action.

    Comment by Skeeter — 10:59 am April 8, 2010 #

  18. skeeter..it will no longer be about “aesthetics” the first time a driver loses control, goes through the fence into the hole, and is injured or dies. This is about safety as much as it is about looks. So, we should just put up with them saying “TFB, it’s gonna stay that way until we say it’s not”? How long is too long to wait for something to be done about it?

    Has anyone asked Whole Foods about their lease? Is it up yet? Do they have any responsibility as the lease holder?

    Someone HAS to be responsible for this..I’m glad some action is being taken.

    Comment by JanS — 11:40 am April 8, 2010 #

  19. Whole Foods’ lease, I am told, stated they would be able to occupy by June. When June officially arrives and there’s no store, then we will hear about their plans. But they’re not liable in the meantime. They don’t own the site – they were to be a tenant. Stand by for more followups … TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:44 am April 8, 2010 #

  20. I think it should be offered to the tent city folk.
    It’s secluded and would benefit ‘someone’ at least for a short time.
    I live just up the street,and I wouldn’t have a problem with them being there.Heck,I’d probably bring them some supplies.
    At least we know they won’t be running the streets at night tagging other peoples property.

    Comment by Ck — 11:59 am April 8, 2010 #

  21. @Jan – I’m not sure why you put “aesthetics” is in quotes, but oh well.

    To answer your question: Yes, I think we should just put up with them saying “it’s gonna stay that way.” If the owner and/or lessee have determined that the best use of the property at this time is an empty hole, then so be it. We live in a country of individual property rights. Unless my use of my property violates a law, then I should have unlimited freedom in determining the best use of my property. When economic conditions change, it is very likely that the owner and/or lessee will find that an alternative use of the property is more financially advantageous.

    Comment by Skeeter — 12:34 pm April 8, 2010 #

  22. No to a plywood fence. That just screams graffiti me to death. Plus at the rate they are moving on this one the plywood would fall apart before they did anything.

    Comment by coffee — 1:14 pm April 8, 2010 #

  23. Heck, we’ll have a Trader Joe’s before that Whole Foods gets built. Maybe even light rail, too.

    Comment by KBear — 1:19 pm April 8, 2010 #

  24. Why not plywood, and then encourage local schools to create murals on it? That’s what they did at bus stops, right? And it seems to discourage graffiti. There’s also a cool mural on 35th created by local students. It’s a thought.

    Comment by HelperMonkey — 1:26 pm April 8, 2010 #

  25. dawsomct, LOVE your idea! I’ll add thpugh, that they get only water and Nutri-Loaf for nourishment during their stay.

    .

    Skeeter, how about developers/commercial property owners taking responsibilty? They chose to buy the property, demolish and existing, admittedly unattractive building, forcing two viable, popular businesses out.

    .

    Once they get to the point of having the old building vacated, they should be held to develop it within a reasonable amount of time, (taking all the permitting and review processes into consideration), or if the building has not yet been demolished, they should put it back on the rental/lease market.

    .

    If it has been demolished, they should at least keep the property safe and clear of litter, vandalism, graffiti, etc.

    .

    If a subsequent party buys the property, in the menatime, they should be held to the same standards as the party that initiated the project.

    .

    I personally get mighty tired of hearing how the middle class, and poor “should take responsiblity” for financial decisons, (which of course they should, to the best of their ability, but sometimes a job loss or illness can have a devastating impact on them) but when a wealthy developer stalls their plans, especially in the middle of a project when a hole has been dug, or a building is left partly finished, it’s like “Oh gee, the market forced that poor developer to stall their project.” Your average midle claas Joe and Jane, who have worked hard all of their lives, tried to save responsibly, can lose all they have, due to the job loss or illness, (and I keep hearing of more and more incidents of both). A developer, who decides he can’t afford to carry on a project any longer, and leaves the property to sit and be a danger and eyesore, will still likely be sitting comfortable, in his multi-million dollar mansion.

    .

    Like others have said, make them put up a bond. And/or, limit the number of projects they can have going at one time, in a given area, to help prevent them from taking on too much debt and responsibility.

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 1:30 pm April 8, 2010 #

  26. Skeeter, I think there must be legal violations with the hole situation…. besides, property owners can’t do whatever they want with their property, they have to follow codes, laws… and you can’t just dig a huge hole that is UNSAFE and leave it that way until the UNSAFE things start to happen. Businesses and cities plan and get permits, and buy-ins for projects all the time for a reason… usually a bunch of laws behind the plans… so what is the PLAN here? I am all for WS getting one voice behind this issue. Nice letter for starts.

    Comment by bleebah — 1:45 pm April 8, 2010 #

  27. misw, Amen to that!

    Comment by DW — 1:52 pm April 8, 2010 #

  28. They should have a limit on how many months a canceled project can sit like that..WTF!!!! We should throw the developers in that hole (with no ladder) and don’t let them out till they come up with a solution! So sick of that freaken hole!!!!!!

    Comment by tisyfit — 2:00 pm April 8, 2010 #

  29. @ Alki Area -
    + 1000 on this one!

    Make the bond part of the code.

    Comment by old timer — 2:03 pm April 8, 2010 #

  30. Still think its a great site for the new jail!

    Comment by Brew — 2:14 pm April 8, 2010 #

  31. It is very unsafe, that should be the 1st priority for now. I miss Hancock Fabrics!

    Comment by Morgan Junction Mom — 2:44 pm April 8, 2010 #

  32. As bad as the hole problem is, the thought of having TWO MORE rounds of dump trucks and heavy equipment filling and then RE-excavating the site is quite a bit more abhorrent to me. YOU can have all that extra exhaust and heavy traffic in YOUR neighborhood; we have enough already.

    Comment by dawsonct — 3:19 pm April 8, 2010 #

  33. Jail? Why a jail? Since we are just dreaming, why not put up a barn, keep the fence around it and open a strip club and burger joint? Wouldn’t that bring in some cash and good jobs to our community?
    .
    As long as the engineers and inspectors continue saying it is a sound hole, there will be no requirement to fill it in or build. That hole will stay, and you may as well get used to it. It isn’t a safety hazard, because it has a fence around it. If someone drives off it, it is an accident just like driving off Beach Drive and into the ocean.
    .
    I would like to know what company “owns” the hole and chooses to ignore it. Whoever that is, I shall choose to ignore any business affiliated to them. A very large number of people would have to let “them” know the same, and I can all but guarantee, something would happen. Sitting on here spewing stupid ideas is not going to make anyone do a thing in the meantime. It’s nice to read, though. How about a ferris wheel? A skate park? An aquarium? :-)

    Comment by AnotherIdiotInWS — 4:48 pm April 8, 2010 #

  34. It’s not Whole Foods fault people, but I guess it’s easier to demonize that organization than the lesser known contractors that have the site tied up in legal battles.

    Comment by BJ — 4:53 pm April 8, 2010 #

  35. BJ…I don’t see anyone demonizing Whole Foods on here. I asked about Whole Foods to see if they still have a lease, have any say in any of this. It wasn’t meant to accuse them of anything. If I blame anyone here, I think that would have to be the developers. I’m guessing they live nowhere close to West Seattle (although I don’t know that for a fact), and that they could give a damn if that hole stays there or not at this point.

    Comment by JanS — 5:13 pm April 8, 2010 #

  36. Another Idiot…one can’t drive off of Beach Drive and into the ocean, unless one has one of them newfangled flying cars ;-)

    Comment by JanS — 5:14 pm April 8, 2010 #

  37. I say utilize the hole as a repository site for all the trash signage blanketing West Seattle’s public right of ways.

    Comment by Bill — 5:15 pm April 8, 2010 #

  38. I made a comment in the rant/rave section of the blog many months ago about this HOLE being unsafe. I had called the City complaining that more rigid structures are needed to be put around it instead of just a cyclone fence. The party I talked at the city said nothing further is required.

    So, we basically have to wait for an incident to happen, the resulting lawsuit and judgement before addressing what the City’s requirements should be.

    I would ask Dow Constantine to get involved but this is a City issue, not County. I am fearful of a car dropping into that dang HOLE. When I got my car’s oil changed last week I talked to one of the employees at Jiffy Lube who confirmed an elderly lady dam near drove her car in. She was eastbound on Alaska and tried to make a left hand turn to go north on 40th ave sw…she got confused, her car junped the curb and she actually made contact with the fence on the SW corner of HOLE. Just think if she was a nanny or something?

    Comment by Dale — 6:05 pm April 8, 2010 #

  39. Thanks for getting this rolling, Susan!

    Comment by Donna Ryan Photography — 6:05 pm April 8, 2010 #

  40. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for putting it into words Susan. West Seattle deserves this situation to be rectified. If not it could easily be 10 years of a huge hole.

    Comment by jr — 6:44 pm April 8, 2010 #

  41. This is getting so ugly. I am looking forward to the story, TR. So, get crackin’! :-)

    Comment by AnotherIdiotInWS — 9:56 pm April 8, 2010 #

  42. let’s fill it with lime green jello. :D

    Comment by LyndaB — 10:07 pm April 8, 2010 #

  43. I think a nice new three or four screen movie theathre would be nice there..if it was built classy and nice with a lot of pretty lanscaping around. The parking would be hidden and all you would see from the street would be a nice “now playing” marquee with soft neon lights. Something that would blend into the neighborhood well.

    Comment by Lori — 3:26 am April 9, 2010 #

  44. This is a clear cut case of big business interfering with the rights of the community and the government is turning a blind eye. Time to take action. Time to start dumping your trash down there. It’s springtime, I know a lot of you have yard waste that you’d otherwise be paying to have hauled off, just dump it in the hole. If you have something big that you’ve been meaning to take to the transfer station, save thirty bucks and DUMP IT IN THE HOLE. Car doesn’t run? The hole. Got a beer can collection left over from college? Hole it. Do you have a recently deceased relative who was a compulsive hoarder and need to clear out the estate? I’ll rent you a truck. Eventually there will be so much garbage down there that the city will have to step in whether they like it or not.

    Comment by austin — 8:26 am April 9, 2010 #

  45. austin, when I started reading…..

    “Do you have a recently deceased relative…….”

    ….. you had me scared for a second! :o :D

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 10:33 am April 9, 2010 #

  46. Well, funerals are expensive, and I’m not going to judge. I won’t rent the truck in that case however.

    Comment by austin — 12:28 pm April 9, 2010 #

  47. Can we just say great job & thanks to the SWDC for taking this step? Kudos to all the other organizations, and businesses who will support this. Some of these comments are sad- Let’s make it worse-in the meantime, lets dump some crap in it! Never mind that it could hurt the Junction area businesses and overall WS community for awhile……? Wow.

    Comment by Gee Whiz.... — 1:32 pm April 9, 2010 #

  48. Screw Hole Foods! Put in a Trader Joe’s, a Grocery Outlet and then give us our fabric store back!

    Comment by reverend ruby — 7:02 pm April 18, 2010 #

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