As it happened: Design Commission tells 4755 Fauntleroy to come back for 4th review

May 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm | In 4755 Fauntleroy, Development, West Seattle news | 26 Comments

(TOPLINE: After almost 3 hours, the Design Commission told 4755 Fauntleroy to tweak its proposed “public benefit” plan and come back a 4th time)

1:43 PM: We are downtown for the third review of the 4755 Fauntleroy Way (Whole Foods/apartments) megaproject before the Seattle Design Commission – and it’s another crowded room, more than 50 people this time, including golden-shirted members of UFCW Local 21, which has expressed consistent opposition to the project, and others including members of the project team, Parks and SDOT reps and, among community members, Steve Huling, former owner of most of the land on which the project will be built, and Nancy Woodland, from the board of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. The commission’s role in this is to review its “urban design merit” and the “public benefit” the developers plan to offer in exchange for the city granting an alley vacation. Highlights as they happen.

Lance Sherwood of Weingarten, the retail developer on the project, starts with three big announcements:

*There is no longer a drugstore drive-through in the project

*The developers will pay to improve the Masonic Temple’s nearby parking lot

*The developers will contribute money ($25,000) toward public outreach regarding the design of the park that the city plans to create on land it’s purchased across 40th from the project’s west side.

The presentation then is taken over by Bill Fuller of Fuller Sears Architects. He explains that the Masons’ parking lot will be graded to be at a single level (it’s on two now), with one entrance. He also notes that part of 40th SW will become the first true “Seattle Green Street” under their plan. Removing drugstore drive-through traffic and Masons’ entry from the project’s “midblock connection” will resolve many of the persistent concerns about it, he says.

He also shows the “iconic corner” at Fauntleroy/Alaska (northeast corner), which now will have glass and lighting.

Next, landscape architect Andy Rasmussen, a West Seattleite who works for Weisman Design Group, is talking about the corners of the project as part of its public benefit. An artist named Troy is here and is involved with the project, Rasmussen says.

The art will involve corten/rusted metal and will be inspired by maritime West Seattle – he shows anchors and pilings as “inspiration.”

He says the connection on 40th to the future park has been “strengthened” in the latest design. Also – more street trees, fewer curb cuts (4 total – compared to 15 on the site now), and overhead weather protection for pedestrians all around the project, he says.

2:02 PM: The discussion of the art, in particular at the Fauntleroy/Alaska SW corner, continues. Some of the forms also will be evocative of the mountains, Rasmussen explains; others, of waves. They also are continuing to work with SDOT, as mentioned previously, on a crosswalk across Alaska at that corner (where Spruce – which just started construction – will be). He says the “water-like” elements will continue down 40th south from Alaska, into the raingarden area that’s streetside on the site there:

Back to the midblock connector that will cut between the project’s two buildings, from Fauntleroy to 40th, it will still have a raised crosswalk midway through. One area on the Fauntleroy edges will also have some extra public space, north of the connector. It’ll carry on the nautical theme with “oar-like forms.”

On the Fauntleroy/Edmunds corner, it will be a more “pier-like/dock-like space,” Rasmussen continues. The major residential entry is there, as is bike parking. Fuller picks up the presentation after that, summarizing the points they believe comprise the public benefit – what’s mentioned above, and more.

OUR AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE CONTINUES BELOW:

2:16 PM: Beverly Barnett, who handles alley/street vacations for SDOT, says she believes the project has now advanced the “public benefit” in a big way. “What we look at are physical and tangible elements of the project that enhance the pedestrian and street environment for the general public,” not just residents and shoppers, she explains. But, she says, she hasn’t seen the chart that Fuller just went over, and some elements the developers listed (improving drainage, for example) would not necessarily be seen as “public benefit.”

A Parks and Rec rep speaks next, noting that it’s great to have open space in the area and acknowledging that the $25,000 contribution to outreach will get the park-design process started sooner than it would have otherwise.

And then – public comment. Woodland speaks first. She says some of the mentioned features have family appeal, and she likes the fact that the utilities will be undergrounded along Fauntleroy and Alaska. She also appreciates that the lighting fixtures along the street are going to be installed to match those in The Junction, to help this site retain its connection, and the future park.

Huling is next, introducing himself as the “previous owner of the Chevrolet store” on the site, which he says he still drives past the site four or five times a day. He says the alley improvements that will result are big progress, for safety too – fire trucks couldn’t even get through before, he notes – and he says that the entire project unifying the site’s purpose represent “a dream.”

Jose Vasquez of a South Park business group speaks next, saying that his concern is how projects like this will affect small business, and hoping that will be kept in mind.

Next – a neighbor who is glad the site will no longer be an eyesore; she is followed by a Whole Foods rep who says his company “likes to engage the street,” so in his view the architects “have done a great job.”

After him, a woman who says she has canvassed small business owners nearby in The Junction, and while most of them, she says, agree the area needs to be developed, “they do not want to see big-box stores, multi-national corporations … many feel they are going to be suffocated and they are very very concerned.”

A representative of UFCW 21 says she submitted a letter and would like more time to respond to what was unveiled today, since they did not get a chance to review it in advance. “We don’t think public benefits can be considered adequate as long as the midblock connector is such a hazard,” she says. “We just hope you put a lot of time into looking at what we submitted and what they submitted.” She is followed by Cheryl Sutton of the UW, who says she contributed to the UFCW’s comments, and is against this because she believes it harms the small-town character in the area. She goes on to talk about a project reviewed elsewhere last night, on the Pike-Pine auto block, with the developer to restore the facades, in exchange for an extra story above. Here, “if I look at this project, what I see is nice landscaping paid for by (cheaper materials in the project).”

Deb Barker, a retired land-use planner and community leader from Morgan Junction, speaks next. “In my opinion, the project has fundamental design issues that have never been involved.” She points out that the footprint of the north building has not changed all along, which she believes indicates some concerns haven’t been taken seriously.

Tracie Chapman with UFCW 21 is next. She is elaborating on a traffic study (we have it and will link it here later) that she did outside a Whole Foods store elsewhere in the city, and says she counted 57 delivery trucks there in a single day – much more than is estimated for this project.

Next speaker, an Alki resident, says she is concerned about whether those who work at this site will be able to live there. She is followed by a man who says that he believes this project “far exceeds” what was envisioned for the area in the Triangle Plan. He contends the developers have “done a wonderful and masterful job” in implementing the vision for the area.

Then a member of the UFCW contingent brings up Tatsuo “Matthew” Nakata and the 47th/Admiral crash that killed him, with safety concerns remaining in that area to this day. “All I would ask is that when you consider the concerns for pedestrian safety in this area, if they are not addressed before this is built,” when will they be? He is the last commenter before the commission begins its discussion.

2:54 PM: The board is continuing to ask ‘clarifying questions’ about a variety of issues, before members start offering opinions prior to taking a vote on whether to recommend approval of the alley vacation. One concern is that the materials presented are not necessarily clear on what the team is doing beyond what’s required, and what they are doing because it’s required. As some of those questions proceed, the developers were asked about whether the project has requested the city’s MFTE (Multi-Family Tax Exemption, given in exchange for promising some units will be kept at certain lower rates) – they confirmed they have.

Asked about the contention that truck traffic will exceed what’s been suggestion, the development team says they expect 30-40 trucks a day, beyond “one large semi,” for the market. The delivery hours will be 5 am-10 pm – no deliveries between 10 pm and 5 am.

Also in response to a question: The project is NOT pursuing LEED certification. And another: The $25,000 contribution to Parks is the estimated cost of three public meetings and getting the project to the brink of the main design process. Speaking of the park, one commissioner said she’s concerned that pedestrian traffic is being directed toward 40th and the future park – without a crosswalk there. The development team says they have asked SDOT many times – and been told no, they can’t have a crosswalk there.

3:28 PM: One commissioner says he’s not sure all the elements work well together, and would like to see “another pass.” Another thinks the streetside plaza configuration could be better – maybe get rid of some of the smaller ones, combine a few and make it a big “dedicated place that really adds value.” Yet another thinks the small-business spaces in this project belong on 40th SW – not really the purview of their review, but voiced just the same – rather than facing on Fauntleroy. “Good point,” murmur others. Yet another commissioner, as the meeting enters hour 3: The art feels “disjointed,” too many types/themes. And – “Where you have the corten near the sidewalk, corten rusts – how is that being dealt with?” (Another commissioner then says he doesn’t have a problem with rust on the sidewalk.)

4 PM: A vote is drawing near. As the commission’s sentiments are summarized, the plaza configuration is mentioned again. They are proposing a vote that would include conditions for a followup review including the artwork. (As they point out, the City Council has final say.)

4:09 PM: But the vote is no- so there will be a fourth review, by a vote of 5 for sending it back, 3 for approving it now.

26 Comments

  1. Thanks for saying that the union shirts are “gold” and not yellow. There is little doubt that we go unnoticed.

    Comment by Andy Heyman — 2:14 pm May 16, 2013 #

  2. I am very confused. Isn’t the Fauntleroy/Alaska the Northeast corner of this project? The so-called “iconic corner”.

    Comment by SeaChanty51 — 2:24 pm May 16, 2013 #

  3. Can we get developers to fundmetro at a rate equivalent to the cost of owning 1 car per apartment per year? I swear, as much as love west Seattle, I don’t like the feeling that its an island and can take 1hour and 2 buses to go to downtown. H

    Comment by Another resident — 2:34 pm May 16, 2013 #

  4. How about some resource equity from sound transit? If they are eliminating the 560, we get no benefit. How do are sound transit payments help WS? The way out suburbs get subsidized by city residents and they get huge benefits to travel that far

    Comment by Another resident — 2:36 pm May 16, 2013 #

  5. The Ballardization of West Seattle. Not against growth and this project will appeal to many, but the neighborhood really is changing.

    Comment by G — 2:46 pm May 16, 2013 #

  6. Any word on parking restrictions around the area? I live on 40th between Edmunds and Hudson and fear street parking will be a nightmare once built. I’m hoping the neigborhood won’t be getting time retrictions (2 hr max) like the area around Link did.

    Comment by MRS — 3:10 pm May 16, 2013 #

  7. yay
    ~
    “4:09 PM: But the vote is no- so there will be a fourth review.”

    Comment by Diane — 4:13 pm May 16, 2013 #

  8. MRS don’t forget that the property on the west side of 40th has a big project in the works also. From Edmonds north to were new park is going in. Going to get awful dark around this area when all the new buildings 6-8 stories high get built up. All you have to do is drive down Avalon from 35th to see what West Seattle is going to look like in the near future. Ugly, Art work and trees will never replace the sun.

    Comment by wetone — 4:41 pm May 16, 2013 #

  9. Things change. That is one nice thing about humans having a relatively short lifespan. One only has a few short years to complain about change.

    Then pffft. Eternal Rest.

    Comment by Change — 5:01 pm May 16, 2013 #

  10. I still laugh every time someone says “iconic corner”. When did it become iconic? Why wasn’t it iconic when the city let someone build a gas station and make shift office on it? Did the previous generation not care about Seattle (the ones who now pine about the “good old days”). Oh well. At least we are thinking about it now. It is a BIG project. A huge change to that corner no question, and a change to that area. The area used to be small buildings and mostly industrial (car lots, lumber yards, etc). Going from a series of asphalt car lots to a place people want to live is a big change…and good. Having an actual “neighborhood” there, including a new park, and not just a pile of car dealerships, I consider a big bonus and improvement! I’d MUCH rather have this area look like Ballard (which is cool) than a half unused semi-industrial junk zone hodgepodge of buildings (which came into being with NO design review in the ‘good old days’).

    Comment by Alki Area — 6:04 pm May 16, 2013 #

  11. I second the comment from Alki Area. Whether or not WSB is just quoting the developer, please stop calling the corner of Fauntleroy & Alaska “iconic.”

    Comment by Forest — 6:05 pm May 16, 2013 #

  12. Again, the corner itself isn’t iconic … but it’s a gateway corner, and that’s why it’s been discussed with that phrase, dating back to when the Seattle PLANNING Commission suggested it. And regarding where that particular corner is … asked by somebody earlier … it’s the southwest corner of the Fauntleroy/Alaska intersection (which is really a five-corners-type intersection, at Fauntleroy/Alaska/39th), northeast corner of the project site. Hope that helps. – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 6:11 pm May 16, 2013 #

  13. I hate it when my giant SUV gets stuck in traffic with all these newbies. It wastes gas.

    Comment by SUV — 6:20 pm May 16, 2013 #

  14. That corner hasn’t been much to look at for a long time. Empty asphalt lots and old dealership show rooms that have been empty for years…no point saving that. I’ll take apartments and people over the remains of a dying car culture any day.

    Comment by Marcus M — 7:47 pm May 16, 2013 #

  15. The pictures of the art, like the monolith building itself, reads like “uninspired oppressed corporate prisoner worked here”. 

    Not that anyone asked me, but aren’t mountains, waves, and suspiciously industrial concrete “pier-like” whatevers a major cop out? 

    From what I can see from this distance, nothing resonates anything about West Seattle as the birthplace of Seattle, nor is there anything to directly reflect the fact that West Seattle is the only peninsula neighborhood in the city – we are surrounded by water – the Duwamish River, Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. Was that mentioned?  The resulting exploration and interpretation, if so, is incredibly weak and labored.  They don’t get it yet.
     
    I think these artist/architects have not distinguished themselves by not digging deep enough into West Seattle to determine specific, dare-i-say intimate, and far more meaningful themes, symbols, colors and images.

      That art (and building street fronts!), admittedly from what I can “read” from a small screen, reflects little concern about what constitutes “West Seattle iconic”.  
    Of course, art is subjective.  But I suspect plenty of creative West Seattleites who could not make these meetings could propose more nuanced, interesting, historical and symbolic images which are neither generic or disappointing to our grand, modern community – the first in Seattle for heaven’s sake! If they memorialize *that* in thematic images and sculpture, in addition to the abundance of our natural surroundings rather than anchors (which resonate more as the Port of Seattle without other specific images, to me), they *might* come closer to not being held in disdain for failing to listen to and then inspire the coming generations of a proud and important Seattle neighborhood.

    If any of “them” are reading:

    Dig deeper developers!  

    Comment by westseattledood — 8:14 pm May 16, 2013 #

  16. I hate West Seattle now. It has changed so much in 11 years. It’s not a place I like to call home anymore.

    Comment by S. — 9:47 pm May 16, 2013 #

  17. @alki area – this isn’t an “either or” choice between what is being proposed (i.e. s. lake Union wannabe) and as is. This is PRIME REAL ESTATE and will be developed. The issue is West Seattle Deserves Better. We don’t need a big box National chain grocery store. .. have those. We don’t need a national chain pharmacy, have that too. Both are represented 3 times over within 3 blocks radius. More importantly, we have lots of locally owned businesses in the immediate area that will be undermined by this development. I’ll take PCC , West Seattle thriftway, and metropolitan market any day over whole paycheck. And I’ll take lunch at husky deli and breakfast at easy street before id step foot at the counters of a national chain. This development as is does nothing for our community. We can do better, and should demand better, because this development will set a precedent for all future development in West Seattle. If we want good development that strengthens our community, we need to set those standards now before its too late.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 10:39 pm May 16, 2013 #

  18. @MRS the blog just posted within the last week parking restrictions planned for the triangle area. . I saw 2 and 4 hour restrictions going into this area, but can’t recall all the details. Just means the “park and hide” will extend a few more blocks into neighboring streets… or will take parking in front of existing small retailers. The developers at 4755 fauntleroy need to provide parking for workers inside the development so neighbors dont suffer.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 11:10 pm May 16, 2013 #

  19. Not this area, no. Part of The Triangle. I have been trying all week to write that story – expecting to finally get to do so tomorrow.

    Comment by WSB — 11:17 pm May 16, 2013 #

  20. @ Alkigirl, agreed.

    @S, you have just let the developers win. Thankfully, I live in Arbor Heights, where no one wants to construct anything.

    Comment by MK — 2:18 am May 17, 2013 #

  21. Developing the Triangle as the city is allowing to happen is creating serious traffic issues for all residents of West Seattle. This project can create a real bottle neck to moving traffic that is exiting or entering WS.
    Since the Rapid C line is already overburdened and is not keeping up with the ridership, why is the city allowing developers to provide inadequate parking for the residents of these buildings. I’m not for more traffic, but it’s an oxymoron to encourage transit ridership when the city knows it can’t provide for it. These developers know their residents will simply park on the street affecting the current residents.
    And as many have noted, we rapidly become an island when there is an accident on the bridge, icing conditions and, heaven forbid, our next big quake. This area is a restricted roadway that also bears the burden of over a million cars/trucks annually from Vashon and Southworth. The city should be required to conduct a traffic analysis before any further large scale projects be approved for WS.

    Comment by Victoria — 9:07 am May 17, 2013 #

  22. @westseattledood, yes, I agree. I love corten/rusted metal and abstraction. Tony Pillow designs are really very nice.
    WS was a lovely isolated vacation spot and then a quite working class neighborhood.
    I am not suggestion the iconic art be a bunch of tool shaking workers at the top of the bridge keeping the rest of Seattle back, but as a welcoming symbol at 40mph it maybe should be a little more straight forward.
    also
    I always thought we were one big neighborhood not a bunch of “community neighborhood buildings” like Belltown. Be nice if there is a green belt to allow migration up the hill to the Alaska Junction for dinner.

    Comment by patt — 10:18 am May 17, 2013 #

  23. One item that needs to be dealt with-in the current design for the site is the public alley vacation and the resulting shift to a private alley/street/passage running east/west in the center of the site. While this new passageway nicely breaks up the large frontage on Fauntleroy, there is no requirement or plan to put in a traffic signal at its entrance to Fauntleroy. Right turns out of the alley will be a minimal problem, but attempts at left turns by either truck or car will likely result in an accident. The developer has stated that SDOT has refused to consider a traffic signal at this new intersection. Is this truly what the SDOT position is, and why has not SDOT weighed-in on this obvious safety risk?
    The Triangle development area does not have a well thought through plan that considers all the changes that are inevitable – local citizens and businesses can raise questions, but the City Departments need to work together to present a plan that is holistic, while encouraging innovation from the developers, and all within a realistic set of guidelines (traffic/transit, density, local business impact, and being sure it turns out to be a great area to be in, pass by, and to look at).

    Comment by Tod Rodman — 2:15 pm May 17, 2013 #

  24. One hopes the Central Committee has more on the line than just hot air (opinions). And the opinion of an ex car dealer really doesn’t count. Seattle hates change, loves to arm chair general and almost always never puts its own money on the line. This eye sore was vacant how long? We are so blessed another car dealer didn’t visit their “Vision” on us.

    Comment by Vinsanity — 10:56 am May 19, 2013 #

  25. @Another Resident: Come on, an hour and two buses to get down town? You must not live in West Seattle. You must live in the ghetto formerly known as White Center, which now likes to piggy back on the upscale reputation of West Seattle when talking about itself. The C-line runs constantly to downtown. It’s 15 minutes to downtown from the West Seattle junction, about 13 minutes from where this project will be. An hour? Stop fooling yourself into believing you live in West Seattle. Oh, unless you live up there where the million dollar homes are near Alki, which IS indeed West Seattle, and in which case you should stop your petulant whining and drive a car if public transportation is just too much for you. Either way, give it a rest.

    West Seattle is *the* best place to be in Seattle. Development will continue, there will be more and bigger buildings, there will be more development, there will be a future that looks different from the past and yet strikingly similar to it as well. West Seattle has been my home for four years now and I welcome the completion of “megaprojects” and the new and upcoming apartment projects in the junction. I welcome these projects as they are far superior to the dilapidated, crumbling concrete of yore, and mega-holes and empty businesses.

    I think Seattleites have a tendency to just resist change as a matter of fact instead of working with it. (Who wants a monorail? Anyone? Anyone?) Fighting change is what we seem to do best in this town and as a result, we aren’t all we could be, and only big money makes anything happen. Suck it up, Seattle. If you don’t like the changes you are forced to live with, then you should get with the program and work to create changes you want instead. But fighting change and pissing and moaning in your canary colored shirts about mid-block accesses and who will do what with the old parking lots… it’s just prolonging the inevitable.

    I love Seattle, but I hate this part of Seattle life.

    /rant

    Comment by Matt — 1:07 pm May 19, 2013 #

  26. WestSeattleDood, Alkigirl, Victoria, T Rodman- you guys ROCK!!! We need to get it right for West Seattle so our children’s families can enjoy living here too….

    Thank You Seattle Design Commission and community to insist on Public benefit , public safety and Aesthetic improvements. We hope your guidance can improve the integration of this Mega Project into our community.

    Comment by Jetcitygirl — 11:27 pm May 20, 2013 #

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