(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.