In the second week since the 4755 Fauntleroy Way project – 370 apartments, a Whole Foods Market, and other TBA retailers – was catapulted into the citywide spotlight by a mayoral letter, we heard yesterday from the advocacy group rallying concerns, and now, today, we hear again from the development team and WF. Reps for Lennar Homes and Weingarten Realty tell WSB they are still hoping to engage the mayor directly in dialogue, but for now, here’s their defense of the “public benefit” they are proposing as a prerequisite for City Council approval of an “alley vacation” for the site, which would lead to the city selling the alley land in question to the developers, which the mayor says the city shouldn’t do:
… This is the first project implemented under the West Seattle Triangle Plan and is an exciting opportunity for the community to have the environmental issues on this site remediated, abandoned buildings removed, and vacant parking lots replaced with new businesses, housing and, most of all, jobs.
Early in this process, the development team reviewed the planning and zoning documents for these parcels and we were impressed with the grass-roots effort that created and implemented the West Seattle Triangle Plan.
Accordingly, this re-development fully supports the recommendations of the community as expressed in the West Seattle Triangle Plan. This vision, passed by Council and signed by Mayor McGinn less than two years ago, includes vacating the public alleyway and creating a midblock connector.
The proposal to vacate an on-site alley went through extensive vetting by DPD, SDOT, the Design Commission and the West Seattle Design Review Board. Under the City’s established process, the Design Commission unanimously recommended approval of the alley vacation and the West Seattle Design Review Board also recommended approval of the project. Strong public support in favor of the re-development was seen at all meetings and is also seen in comments posted on media websites.
The total width of the midblock connector is 51 feet on 40th Avenue and 41 feet on Fauntleroy Way. This is the normal width of a typical city street in Seattle and exceeds the minimum required standards for an alley, which are just 20 feet.
Along with providing a new midblock connector that is more than twice as wide as the requirements of an alley, this redevelopment will also create a functioning north/south alley. Currently, the existing alley that runs north and south, dead ends into a 6’-0” high retaining wall and is impassable for vehicles or pedestrians.
Although we are replacing approximately 6,600 square feet of vacated alley with a 11,000-square-foot midblock connector, which includes a public easement, the city requires us to purchase the vacated portion of the alley from the city. This transaction will occur after a post-construction appraisal is completed.
In addition to purchasing the vacated alley from the city at full-market value, we are required to provide a “public benefit” package. For this project, more than $2 million will be invested into the community by providing:
• Activation of a city-designated Green Street on 40th Ave. SW
• Creation of 5,000+ s.f. of public plazas and open space on site
• Widening of 40th Ave. SW on the north end of the block
• Creation of 6- to 10-foot-wide bands of landscaping around the project
• Addition of a 5-foot-wide bike lane on Fauntleroy Way
• Curation and installation of public art
• Funding for design of a new city park on 40th Ave SW
Another positive outcome of the re-development will be a new source of sales and property tax revenues for the city.
Through all of this and more, we are demonstrating a strong commitment to the community, and West Seattle will benefit from a blighted area being re-developed into a thriving, pedestrian-friendly business and residential district.
Meantime, Whole Foods – which is not part of the “development team” but rather a signed tenant for the project – has sent us its latest rebuttal. From regional president Joe Rogoff, from whom we first heard July 16th (in a statement toward the end of our story the day the controversy erupted):
We’re very proud of our history in Seattle. In 1999, we opened the Roosevelt Square store, which was the very first store in all of the Pacific Northwest. Since then, we’ve opened 5 more Seattle-area stores and employ more than 1,500 Team Members. Last year, we added over 100 new Team Members solely from our continued, same-store growth.
We’re looking forward to being part of the West Seattle community. Here are a few important facts we wanted you to have on hand.
We expect the West Seattle location will add about 150 Team Members to the area.
The vast majority (nearly 80% in our Seattle metro stores) of Whole Foods Market’s Team Members work full time and that will be reflected in the Team Members we hire for the West Seattle location.
FORTUNE magazine has named Whole Foods Market one of America’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 16 consecutive years – one of only 13 companies to be named every year to since the list’s inception since 1998. Fortune cited one of the reasons Whole Foods Market again made the list is its equitable pay structure, noting that the company caps salaries of executives at 19 times the average full-time salary.
Our wages start higher and cap higher than many other grocers. The wage scale for Seattle starts at $11 per hour and currently caps at $29.50 per hour. The average wage for Whole Foods Market’s non-leadership Team Members in our Seattle stores is $16.15.
Whole Foods Market was included on a list of companies with the best health care benefits, for offering Team Members 100 percent paid health care premiums. Our benefits plan is accessible to over 91% of our Team members. We offer training, competitive benefits, stock options for all team members, gain-sharing and much more. Company benefits includes a team member store discount of 20-30%, health care coverage for domestic partners and a health spending account to help cover health care expenses.
We’ve been pursuing a location in West Seattle for many years. Our desire to be part of this community stems from demand – many West Seattle residents cross at least one bridge to get to our existing locations. We know people in West Seattle would like to drive less and shop in their neighborhood, in a store that is designed with products and services that meet their needs and expectations. No two Whole Foods Markets are alike, and we’ll be asking our future shoppers to work with us so we understand what they’d like their store to be. It also stems from our desire to be a part of a vibrant community. In the past 20 months, we have donated over $325,000 to local non-profits in the Seattle metropolitan area, and we look forward to finding new community partners in West Seattle to participate in pursuit of their aspirations.
We are a good employer, a good neighbor, and a good citizen and we’re excited to get the West Seattle project rolling.
Developers have said they hope to start work at the site before year’s end. SDOT told us earlier this week that the “alley vacation” won’t be forwarded to the City Council before fall. This project first came to light a year ago; we have tagged many of our archive stories, and you can browse them, in reverse chronological order, here – we still have a few more to tag.