4755 Fauntleroy alley spat: Development team defends its ‘public benefit’ plan; Whole Foods says, ‘We’re a good employer’

July 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm | In 4755 Fauntleroy, Development, West Seattle news | 37 Comments

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.

37 Comments

  1. We know in the end they will likely get what they want but we should get some before and after pics I think so we can see how far into reality their vision goes.

    Comment by cj — 5:47 pm July 25, 2013 #

  2. of the candidates for Mayor; Steinbreuck was 1st to respond to Mayor’s action; followed by Murray, both all over the news; Harrell has been silent, til now
    ~
    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/07/25/bruce-harrells-calls-mayors-argument-for-blocking-whole-foods-very-shallow-in-substance

    Comment by Diane — 6:10 pm July 25, 2013 #

  3. Simple. Just remove all on-site parking and the city will approve with no further delays.

    Comment by SomeGuy — 6:15 pm July 25, 2013 #

  4. This is a crazy “spat”.
    1. I guarantee no more than 10 people have used that “alley” in the last 5 years. It’s a joke. This isn’t some valuable highly used piece of roadway…nor even a busy “commercial” alley (like the one through the proposed Alaska/California development, the alley that runs behind the old PetCo). This is an abandoned junk alley that even WHEN there was a car lot there, I’m sure 99.9% of folks thought it was part of their property, not a “public” roadway. What a joke.

    2. Leave Whole Foods alone. Why isn’t everyone attacking Amazon (non-union) and demanding they stop building in Seattle and get out of town. If you don’t like Whole Foods, don’t shop there (I rarely would, just too expensive for what you get in MY humble opinion, but nice stuff).

    Comment by Beach Dr Home — 6:27 pm July 25, 2013 #

  5. I didn’t know the Seattle mayor needs to voice an opinion on what kind of grocery store I have in my neighborhood. I’d rather he didn’t. This is political posturing and I don’t care for it at all.

    Comment by Gabby — 6:37 pm July 25, 2013 #

  6. Really not all that pertinent and a bit petty, I know, but I think it’s kinda silly and pointless to call employees “Team Members”. Better than “Wage Slave” I guess ;-)

    Comment by Twobottles — 6:37 pm July 25, 2013 #

  7. OK I’ve been on the east coast for a couple weeks. Need to get up to date on this further. In the meantime is this really about a magical alley? Or did McGinn’s political team walk him unknowingly off the stupid plank.

    Comment by haha — 6:51 pm July 25, 2013 #

  8. Beach Dr Home — I totally agree with you. McSchwinn’s pomposity is simply pathetic. 2013′s mayoral candidates are extremely weak and mediocre at best. What is Seattle to do this coming November? At least we don’t have a New York Weiner in the race — at least I hope not.

    Comment by Seattlite — 7:56 pm July 25, 2013 #

  9. “Better than “Wage Slave” I guess ”
    .
    Depends how entitled you think you are. Some of us were raised properly and understand we have to earn our place in society, it won’t be handed to us. Probably explains why the excellent staff at Seattle’s Whole Foods have such great customer service and enjoy their work.

    Comment by West Seattle — 8:19 pm July 25, 2013 #

  10. The city needs to walk away from this. It’s going to end up the same way it did when they tried to outlaw legally-possessed guns in the park. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money, probably illegal, and for all these reasons it’s an irresponsible waste of effort.

    McGinn just handed my vote to Steinbreuck.

    Comment by Jim — 8:31 pm July 25, 2013 #

  11. The city has no business welcoming large quantities of new residents to WS without providing the infrastructure to support them. There are not seats on the bus for these people; there are not even standing places on the bus for these people. While raking in millions from development fees and taxes, how about putting some of that money toward keeping the WS transportation corridors functional?

    Comment by W — 9:42 pm July 25, 2013 #

  12. Is there some way for the community to get involved and show support for the development? Not sure if that would mean much but it’s worth a shot. And I’m sure there are residents opposed to the development but it would be nice for those in favor to show some collective support.

    Comment by West Seattle luv — 9:45 pm July 25, 2013 #

  13. I hoping the City Council will be the voiced of reason on this and reject this fill-in-the-blank proposal by hizzoner.

    Comment by My two cents ... — 9:49 pm July 25, 2013 #

  14. it’s not like trusting a corporation has ever gone wrong or anything… and developers? cream of the crop! they always show the greatest care and regard toward the communities where they house their investments.

    bully!

    Comment by mr. the horse — 10:42 pm July 25, 2013 #

  15. I love the nicknames given for the politicians involved. So creative and helpful to your point of view!

    Comment by Cwit — 10:56 pm July 25, 2013 #

  16. Whole foods and walmart are both extremely predatory businesses ws would be better off without wf but here they come. Type in whole foods controversy and do some reading this is not a great company but rather one most in ws would not support in the same way you may feel about Walmart…

    Comment by West seattle long time — 11:03 pm July 25, 2013 #

  17. @W; I agree a million times over; yes, developers who are saving $20,000 per parking space they no longer have to build, and marketing these apts as having “quick easy access to Rapid Ride”, should be helping to buy buses and help pay for bus operations
    ~
    “The city has no business welcoming large quantities of new residents to WS without providing the infrastructure to support them. There are not seats on the bus for these people; there are not even standing places on the bus for these people. While raking in millions from development fees and taxes, how about putting some of that money toward keeping the WS transportation corridors functional?
    Comment by W”

    Comment by Diane — 2:51 am July 26, 2013 #

  18. http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/07/25/flip-flop-alert-ed-murray-strongly-supported-mayor-mcginns-policy-on-whole-foods-before-he-vehemently-opposed-it

    Comment by Diane — 2:52 am July 26, 2013 #

  19. Simple graft and corruption. All of the details are just a distraction.

    Comment by MrB — 6:44 am July 26, 2013 #

  20. Hey Did anyone commenting negatively on WF actually read their letter?
    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.
    I don’t get what is wrong with this– & don’t believe every company has to have a union. Maybe some current or former WF employees could comment on their dissatisfaction.
    For all those whining about transportation– why not direct your outrage to King County Metro & their abysmal management & Dow Constantine– running for re-election by the way– who lets the poor management continue.
    Why not try & make a change in city & county government– the folks in charge who sit on – or appoint people to the committees that ok these developments?

    Comment by Gene — 7:17 am July 26, 2013 #

  21. Anyone with half a brain can easily see that the union has our poor excuse of a mayor in their back pocket! Good for Whole Foods at keeping the union out of their business! People love working there – and let’s not forget about the jobs this brings to WS – oh why can’t Seattle ever learn that the liberal canidates are never good for business and development!!

    Comment by Red — 7:42 am July 26, 2013 #

  22. I love the nicknames given for the politicians involved. So creative and helpful to your point of view!

    .

    +1

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 7:50 am July 26, 2013 #

  23. “Best Companies to Work For” indeed. I used to work for a company in that ranking. Employers hand-pick the rank-and-file staff who get to “voluntarily” talk with the interviewer. You get interviewed in a room along with your boss. The whole thing was a set-up.

    Team members = management’s term for peons.

    Comment by LivesInWS — 10:17 am July 26, 2013 #

  24. @ West Seattle: A living income is only due to someone who has “earned our place in society”? What?? All the more reason to have a Mayor that feels all workers deserve fair and just working conditions. Sheesh.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 12:47 pm July 26, 2013 #

  25. @LivesInWS

    Hey LivesInWS! I am a Team Member at Whole Foods (and for the record I like being a Team Member and not an employee). I was randomly choosen to participate in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for survey a few years ago. I recived a survey attached to my paycheck – I filled it out and sent it back to Fortune. It was completely voluntary, no Team Leader in the same room as me, infact no one at work even asked me about it! I was PROUD to tell Fortune and I am PROUD to tell you: I LOVE working for Whole Foods Market. The people I work with are like a second family, we love and respect eachother, and a lot of us come to work every day becuase we like food, we like to hang out with cool customers and other team members and we are inspired to be part of a company that is making a difference in the world. I am excited for our West Seattle Store and I hope you will come in and shop with us!

    Comment by WFM Team Member Dottie — 6:48 pm July 26, 2013 #

  26. The stranger link above is very informative. I am sure there are tons of people that would say great things about working for wall mart too…

    This article is also very informative http://michaelbluejay.com/misc/wholefoods.html

    For me it’s less about the employee situation than the destroying competition… How many stores will there be in ten years? Breaking unions allow for an uneven playing field…

    But there is allot more to make you wonder if you really look at WF history of business practice.

    Comment by West seattle long time — 7:31 pm July 26, 2013 #

  27. @ West Seattle Luv; the best way to support this project for West Seattle is to send an email to council@seattle.gov. Politicians really do take notice of how many calls & letters they receive & it can be really simple: just like your post.

    Comment by WS Mom — 10:39 pm July 26, 2013 #

  28. Great comments by Weingarten, Lennar, Whole Foods and several of their employees. I applaud you and congratulate you on your successes. The plans and the contributions you have made to the design and upgrades of the existing dirt alley, moving it a few feet (now called a midblock connector) among a meriad of other public benefits, are reflective of your sensativity to the public requests and the process that has been required of your team. I am looking forward to shopping at your West Seattle store. I currently have to drive to your Ballard store. Your products and customer service are worth the drive. I am embarrassed by the position of our current Mayor. Many change are comming. Where does one go for a preinterview to be given consideration for hire as one of your team members.? Also Twobottles, I think if you check your history you’ll find that the civil war ended slavery. Sounds like you are unhappy with your current position in life, maybe you should apply as a Team member. and get you fred up as to what your potential is.

    Comment by West Seattle Lifer — 12:35 am July 27, 2013 #

  29. @LivesInWS
    Hello – I just wanted to clarify how Team Members participate in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” surveys. Leadership in our regions, stores and facilities have no input into the selection of survey participants, all survey participation is via anonymous survey, and participation is entirely voluntary. Team Members who participate in Fortune’s survey are selected entirely at random and the results of this survey represent 2/3 of the evaluation that determines whether or not a Company earns a place in the “100 Best Companies to Work For”. I’m proud to be a Team Member and honored that our Team Members continue to select our Team to be on this “100 Best” list!

    Comment by Danielle Neumann — 8:10 am July 27, 2013 #

  30. I think there is a fair amount of WF management and or employes commenting on this thread although I am wondering what kinda team lingo getting Fred up is:)

    Comment by West seattle long time — 1:51 pm July 27, 2013 #

  31. Yes, it does look there are WF employees commenting, and they say so.

    Diane-more business, more taxes, more infrastructure?”

    Comment by Mickey — 9:07 am July 28, 2013 #

  32. Normally I’m very pro-Union, but I don’t see the problem with Whole Foods not being unionized. Most other businesses near the Junction are not unionized, either. From what I understand from talking to WF employees, they are well compensated and well treated. I don’t know of any perfect employment situations; most of us who work for an hourly wage, or even those who are salaried, are wage slaves at some level. If you want to talk horrible employers (and one that drove the Union out) look at Nordstrom.

    I am aware that the CEO of Whole Foods is not the liberal icon that I, or other West Seattle denizens, would prefer. Again, most employers aren’t that either – but I’m also liberal enough not to demand that everyone be exactly like me.

    The location is not the greatest, due to the concentration of other groceries. But I do look forward to having a Whole Foods in the area; I’m low-income and extremely frugal, and my price comparisons have shown WF to be extremely competitive or better, especially their 365 house-brand items. The fresh meat and produce can’t be beat either in quality or price, and I appreciate not having to read every label to see if it contains GMO’s.

    Comment by anonyme — 10:05 am July 28, 2013 #

  33. As a token of my appreciation for Mayor McThug, I’ll be taking my grocery shopping to Bellevue’s Whole Foods. This way I can show support for a company that treats their employees with a fair wage and give Bellevue my tax dollars.

    When Whole Foods was slated to go into their original location, where was Mayor McBike? They requested a vacation there. Safeway was there and QFC was slated to go there. Where was the letter of “concern” from the Mayor. And even if he may not have been mayor at this time, if he had such concern for the “well being” of protecting west seattle from non-union shops, he certainly should of shown it as a concerned citizen.

    Comment by Lance — 4:16 pm July 28, 2013 #

  34. Lance, I couldn’t agree with you more. The development which was going to be Whole Foods, before the devloper went into bankrupcy and now going to be a 24 Hour Fitness had an alley vacation., There was never any opposition to Whole Foods or the alley vacation for that project. There was aslo an alley vacation requirement for that project.

    Comment by West Seattle Lifer — 12:23 am July 29, 2013 #

  35. I am not a Whole Foods employee and I AM a long time WS resident who can’t wait for Whole Foods to come to West Seattle so I don’t have to drive to the Interbay store to do my shopping.

    Comment by CMT — 10:51 am July 29, 2013 #

  36. Whole Foods should make a statement that if McGinn is re-elected they will close all of their stores in Seattle and never do business here again. Two can play at that game.

    Comment by CW — 1:08 pm July 30, 2013 #

  37. Nah CW, Whole Foods is probably too devoted to its workers and customers to do something like that as an act of political gamesmanship with their lives. Now… McGinn on the other hand… well, here’s his own 1 minute commercial appealing to unions and touting how Whole Foods doesn’t share his values.
    McGinn’s union commercial

    After that commercial you can hear McGinn take credit for all those ballot issues we voted on. Next he’ll say he won Obama the white house in an attempt to pander to democrats.

    Comment by ChefJoe — 2:20 pm August 3, 2013 #

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