(West side of 4755 Fauntleroy, rendering by Fuller Sears Architects)
One week ago today, the 4755 Fauntleroy Way mixed-use project’s path through the approval process hit a sudden pothole when Mayor McGinn sent a letter to SDOT, saying the department should recommend the City Council reject the project’s request for an “alley vacation” to facilitate 370 apartments, 600 underground parking spaces, and retail including Whole Foods Market. The “vacation” would involve the city agreeing to sell a section of alley on the property to the developers. The mayor cited concerns including most notably the proliferation of supermarkets in central West Seattle and the wages and benefits that non-union Whole Foods would offer its staff, points that had been made at prior hearings on the project by members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, which has recently become involved with an advocacy campaign called “Getting It Right for West Seattle,” focused on this project.
Our initial coverage a week ago, which you can see here, includes the mayor’s letter, Whole Foods’ response, project background (we’ve been covering 4755 Fauntleroy for a year), and 185 reader comments. Then last Wednesday, we published a followup including the developers’ response (see it here) and what happens next – the project’s referral to the City Council Transportation Committee for a public hearing on the alley vacation. (No date yet; SDOT communications director Rick Sheridan tells WSB, “In terms of schedule, the earliest a recommendation could be delivered is the fall.”)
In the past week, all this has circulated into regional media. And now there’s a followup – Getting It Right for West Seattle has sent a letter to the Transportation Committee’s chair, West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, and e-mailed us a copy late today:
As you’ll see if you scroll through it, the letter is signed by representatives of more than two dozen local businesses, three unions including UFCW Local 21, 22 people identifying themselves as West Seattleites, four political/advocacy groups, and five clergy/faith-group representatives. If you can’t read the embedded document, the heart of the letter reads:
This project, if approved, would be the largest multi-use development ever built in West Seattle. While acquisition of a public right of way would greatly increase these developers’ profits, the project in its current form will:
• increase West Seattle’s traffic and congestion;
• degrade pedestrian safety;
• create low-wage jobs and housing unaffordable to those workers;
• drive away existing local, small businesses; and
• set a lower standard for future development in West Seattle.
We are aware that the Seattle City Council has final authority over alley vacations. We urge you as chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee to let the Executive’s decision stand.
Once that committee has a hearing and takes a vote, the alley-vacation request would then move to the full Council. If it voted to approve the request, the mayor could veto it; if he did, the council could override it, and that would be the final say (pending legal challenges, etc.). Before this letter arrived, we had been working on a separate followup we expect to publish tomorrow, with other updates.
P.S. If you are just coming in on this – this project was first proposed a year ago for a site including the former Huling (and briefly Gee) auto property along Fauntleroy south of Alaska, plus the Shell station north of it, the Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home west of that (they are moving to a new location in Sunrise Heights), and another former auto-sales property at the corner of 40th/Alaska. It would abut the Alki Masonic Temple on two sides; the developers announced during the May Design Commission review that they would pay to improve the Masons’ parking lot.