As-it-happened: 4755 Fauntleroy alley vacation approved by City Council committee

April 8, 2014 at 9:35 am | In 4755 Fauntleroy, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 59 Comments

(TOPLINE: Five councilmembers voted in favor of the alley vacation at today’s hearing; final vote expected at full Council meeting on April 21st)

(Photos/video by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
9:35 AM: Just under way at City Hall – the City Council Transportation Committee meeting that will include the “alley vacation” request for the 4755 Fauntleroy Way (aka The Whittaker) development. You can watch the live Seattle Channel stream by clicking “play” in the window below:

(EVENING UPDATE: The archived full-meeting Seattle Channel video is now embedded above)
The meeting will start with public comment, about this and the meeting’s other big item – the updated Bicycle Master Plan. After that, 4755 Fauntleroy is the first item on the agenda. We’ll update live as it goes.

(Added: WSB video of the entire public-comment period)
9:42 AM: Public comment is under way. The committee’s chair Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is calling alley-vacation commenters first, then bicycle plan. First commenter, Deb Barker, a co-author of the letter/supporting documents we published last night, including criticism of the public-outreach period. Second, Joe Rogoff from Whole Foods Market, the only announced tenant for the project so far. He says opponents have mischaracterized the project’s truck-traffic potential. He also says, “Whole Foods Market being singled out as a tenant does not seem right to me” and notes there was no union outcry when non-unionized Trader Joe’s went in nearby. Third commenter, identified as Rebecca, who says city policy discourages alley/street vacations if they don’t benefit the city’s transportation system and thinks this should be denied. Next, a man identifying himself as a land-use attorney representing a commercial real-estate group. “Adding density to the region is critical,” he says. “… Especially dense new development near transit lines.” He says developers are starting to avoid alley vacations because they are such a hassle, and says that’s bad. Next: Steve Williamson, who says he wants the committee to vote no but if anyone chooses to vote “yes,” to explain what they believe is its public benefit. He, like Rebecca, says research has shown only one street/alley vacation denied by the council since 1998. And he says “development policy … is one way to address income inequality.”

9:54 AM: The commenters continued with supporter Josh Sutton, who says that if this project doesn’t go forward, another developer could move in with something worse. He says this project “has passed every step of the Seattle development process along the way … You have all you need to make a decision today.” Next, Jim Guenther, who says, “The train’s pulling away from the station and the only people on that train are going to be the developers, the City Council, and city staff.” He says opponents “have no problem with Whole Foods” and point out that they offered alternatives to the developers who, he says, “said no.” He lists four conditions he thinks should be required of the developers, including making half of the mid-block connector pedestrian-only, and “meaningful plazas” on the site. Next speaker, John, says, “I’ve had so many conversations with people about Whole Foods coming to West Seattle … (people) want WF to come here.” He contends, “The voters in West Seattle really, really want to see this happen.” He’s followed by Patrick Keating, who says he’s “here to talk about the traffic impacts … Currently (the crosswalks and bus stops) in the vicinity are difficult at best.” Next, Richard, who says, “A lot of this has turned into some bizarre union thing vs. non-union, Whole Foods … (but) this is really about the development of the property there. I don’t know if you’ve been down there but the place is a cesspool … derelict buildings, graffiti, the alley in question isn’t even an alley per se, it’s two streets cut off by dumpsters.” The next commenter, Kurt, says he got involved with a group of project opponents because he thought they were concerned about overall West Seattle development, but learned they were only focused on this project, and only on opposing Whole Foods being part of it. He says he supports the project. Final commenter is Dave Montoure, who says he wants to clarify that the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, for which he serves as past board chair, supports the project. He says he hopes the committee will vote today. He’s the last commenter on this project – next, four bicycle-plan commenters, so there’ll be a break in our coverage.

10:17 AM: Now, the official agenda item.

Councilmember Rasmussen recaps that discussion and presentations were extensive on March 11th so the city staffers are here mostly as “a resource.” Beverly Barnett, who is the city’s point person for reviewing street/alley vacations, speaks first. She goes through the process and says that the city’s default is supposed to be “retain right of way … so when people (bring in proposals), we do feel there’s kind of a ‘hump’ for them to go over.” The more-problematic ones, she says, never get to the council because of so much advance discussion. She says if there’s a vote today, it would be on whether to grant the alley vacation – which means, the right for the developer to buy the alley land at fair-market value – “as conditioned.” (The documentation are all in the items linked to the agenda and was also included in our March 11th coverage.) City staff is going over the list of meetings at which the project was discussed; Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said she was concerned, but it sounds as if it’s been thoroughly discussed/presented. Councilmember Tim Burgess asked Barnett if this went through the standard vacation process. Yes, she said, although it’s been “more,” she added. He asks if it was circulated to city departments to see if there are any objections; yes, she replies, and says the developer met with departments including SDOT and Seattle Public Utilities to review elements including the design of the “mid-block connector” through the project. Luke Korpi of SDOT elaborates on that, saying “various alternatives” were explored, and that they felt they had finally arrived at the best version, which features a pedestrian walkway “separate from vehicle traffic, truck traffic.”

10:36 AM: Korpi says SDOT is “comfortable” with the final version. Bagshaw says she is still concerned about people getting from the project to the newly purchased park land across 40th SW. (There’s been controversy over whether SDOT would allow a mid-block crosswalk there; the West Seattle Triangle Plan calls for one.) Korpi says traffic engineers want to wait until after the project is finished to see how traffic patterns shape up, how the park is developed, etc. The developer is reported to have said that they will “participate” in making that crosswalk possible, and Bagshaw says she would like to make sure that is on the record somehow. Councilmember Mike O’Brien asks why, since Triangle Plan called for pedestrian-only midblock connector here, it’s OK for vehicles to be part of the one through the project. Korpi says they evaluated whether it would meet the goals of the plan, and SDOT determined it would. “So why was the letter of the neighborhood plan not achievable?” O’Brien asks. Korpi says it was deemed preferable for this project to have three access points for vehicles – Fauntleroy, 40th, Edmunds – to reduce pressure on Fauntleroy in particular. Councilmember Sally Clark says she supports getting the developer on record as helping pay for the future crosswalk. Rasmussen now moves for conceptual approval of the alley vacation and is second. Discussion ensues: He says the tenant is not part of the consideration, per city law; one critical point, he says, is whether the public will “lose alley function” with granting of a vacation, but he says that will not happen with this plan. And he quotes the Design Commission as saying that the plan with a midblock connector will “better meet the need … than the current alley … which is petitioned to be vacated.” He says that reviews indicate traffic will not be worsened at the area and that there are other benefits, such as wider sidewalks and an added bicycle lane, so he concludes “the public trust in the right of way” would be served. He also says that leaving the current alley configuration in place would not serve the goals of the Triangle Plan. And he notes SDOT did “not make a recommendation” regarding approval or denial, but did suggest conditions if the council chooses to support it. “My conclusion is that the public benefits are strong,” he concludes, and says he supports approval.

11:02 AM: Councilmember O’Brien, vice chair of the Transportation Committee, says he’s voting no. He thinks, for one, a grocery store could be placed on the Fauntleroy side, and he likes the fact that if the site were developed without an alley vacation, it would mean more housing units, and he says those are needed. Overall, he says he is not convinced there is enough public benefit, and the midblock connector concerns him the most – whether it has enough pedestrian orientation. He says he doesn’t think it’s possible to “put enough conditions on it” to make the vehicle traffic and pedestrian interaction work well enough. Councilmember Licata – who is an alternate member of the committee – is asking more about the connector. “It doesn’t seem to work in terms of just a pedestrian area,” he said, without “destinations on other side of the sidewalk … I don’t get who this is serving.” Rasmussen explains, “This is a very, very large site, and without a pedestrian connection, people would” have to walk up to and around the site on Alaska and Edmunds, “so it serves a very practical function.” Licata is not convinced. Next, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who says she’s been to the site and a “vibrant development” certainly is in order, but she still wants to see the jobs question considered – just because that hasn’t been part of the review process “doesn’t mean we should keep doing it the same way until the end of time.” She points out that this would be in an area with several other grocery stores and that she believes they are all unionized (editor’s note: not Trader Joe’s) and that she will vote no.

11:16 AM: The vote is “divided,” Rasmussen announces (5 for, 3 against, we’re still confirming how it shook out since it’s a voice vote), so it goes to the full council on April 21st. Five votes is a majority of the council, so if no one changes, that means it will be finalized then, and supporters are in a jovial mood outside the chambers. The committee now goes on to the Bicycle Master Plan – you can continue watching the meeting in the live window above. We’re hanging around until the end to be sure we have clarification on who voted what and what happens next.

11:55 AM: Just spoke with Rasmussen’s legislative assistant Brian Hawksford:
-The no votes were O’Brien, Sawant, and Licata.
-The only councilmember who wasn’t here was Bruce Harrell; so, the yes votes were Rasmussen, Bagshaw, Godden, Clark, Burgess.
-”Divided” vote means that since it was not unanimous, a report must be prepared by council staff laying out the points that were made, and that is why the final vote is delayed a week, and scheduled for the second meeting after the committee vote instead of the first one.
-Even though the committee itself is just three members, the rules allow any councilmember to join in the proceedings of any committee (including voting) at any time.

ADDED 2:25 PM: From e-mail, reaction from Getting It Right for West Seattle, which had sought to have a Community Benefit Agreement required before the alley vacation could be approved:

Transportation Chairperson Tom Rasmussen’s approval of the biggest megaproject of its kind in West Seattle is another illustration why it’s time for the city to modernize its definition of what constitutes a public benefit. The city council should consider the public’s priorities, such as compliance with neighborhood plans, public transportation, family wage jobs, affordable workforce housing, and more. It should no longer be okay to sell public property to developers and businesses who don’t meet Seattle’s community-oriented standards. We thank Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant for voting no on this project.

ADDED 10:08 PM: We have replaced the original cameraphone photos included here as we reported – crowd at top, council midway through – with two clearer images by our photographer. We also have replaced the original “live video” window with archived Seattle Channel video of the entire meeting, and also added the backup video we recorded while there – broken into two segments, the public comment, and the actual agenda item/discussion/vote.

59 Comments

  1. Just build the thing already.

    Comment by quiz — 11:29 am April 8, 2014 #

  2. Seriously …So if 5 votes is majority, I am looking forward to the clarification.

    Comment by I love Whole Foods — 11:36 am April 8, 2014 #

  3. Build it! I appreciate the energy some people are putting into this, but I think it’s a bit misdirected. Maybe put that energy into some sort of rail transit to/from West Seattle.

    Comment by Person — 11:39 am April 8, 2014 #

  4. Not going to happen. WF is just not destined to be in WS. This development will change to a massive 8 story apartment building with much less curb appeal (think Jefferson Square Part II). The Union will be happy, Trader Joe’s will be very happy, and those who want (but will never use) a pedestrian only connector will get their useless, empty connector. And those of us who like shopping at WF will continue to contribute to bridge traffic and burn 3x the fossil fuels driving our SUVs all the way to Denny & Westlake.

    Comment by The real CW — 11:46 am April 8, 2014 #

  5. Lets just get on with the show already. If the process takes any longer – the developer cannot afford to keep up the financial part of this argument and WILL pull out and we will be left with a dollar store or maybe another corporate gym or tanning salon. Does that sound better? Then maybe on the other side of the city owned alley – maybe a Subway? We should be grateful that this corporation wants to join the west seattle community – we actually need the variety when it comes to healthy, sustainable, non gmo options with organics – great salad bars, to-go food, cafe style eating a good vibe.

    Comment by wsrez — 11:46 am April 8, 2014 #

  6. I am hoping to hear how each voted.

    Comment by dsa — 11:57 am April 8, 2014 #

  7. What has this “alley” that everyone keeps speaking of in such a grand manner been serving residents for years?! Absolutely nothing, at least this way the area will be used. I live very near the area and it is attracting people that are worrysome to travel past and as I stare off of my balcony I continue to watch people use it as a urinal. For goodness sake this has been too long and this needs to be addressed and a deal needs to be made.

    Comment by FauntleroyOwner — 12:02 pm April 8, 2014 #

  8. Still be better than Jefferson Square, ANYTHING would be…was just there. Looking across the street to Mural, which looks a thousand times nicer than the Soviet drab Jefferson Square. Another example of how everything now is MUCH better than the “good old days” where the lifetime residents allowed incredibly ugly horrible buildings, like Jefferson Square, and the gas station, ugly homemade office building and car lot on our ironic corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska. The Mural looks NICE, while Jefferson Square looks like a Soviet prison (flat gray and beige with no window trim or anything). Monstrously ugly. Every SINGLE rendering I’ve seen for the new Whole Foods building looks a THOUSAND times better than whats there now. We DO need to make sure the traffic flow and pedestrian access work well, but as for the LOOK, it’s heads and shoulder above the GARBAGE that folks allowed to be built in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. These buildings at least LOOK nice.

    Comment by David — 1:03 pm April 8, 2014 #

  9. If one doesn’t like the results of any progress the tactic of slowing the approval process to a snail’s pace works but also corrupts whatever systems are in place to ensure code compliance. This project complies as designed and all else is window dressing.

    Comment by Under Achiever — 1:06 pm April 8, 2014 #

  10. Cheers for Rasmussen, Bagshaw, Godden, Clark, and Burgess! YEA!
    -
    Jeers to O’Brien, Licata, and Sawant! BOO!
    -
    This has gone on WAY TOO LONG. The “Seattle process” just insane. Build it already!
    -
    On another note, I’m anxious to hear if Rasmussen is going to run for council in 2015. We absolutely need to keep him on the council. He seems to be the only one with full comprehension of the law and specific issues for this site.
    -
    I’m looking forward to seeing the construction from my window.

    Comment by Peter on Fauntleroy — 1:11 pm April 8, 2014 #

  11. DSA, I think your comment came in just before I updated, but that information is now all there at the end of our coverage. The yes votes were Rasmussen, Clark, Godden, Burgess, and Bagshaw. No votes, O’Brien, Sawant, Licata. Harrell was not there but is not a member of the committee so he didn’t have to be (it’s explained in our update how councilmembers can join any committee vote even if they are not a member).

    Comment by WSB — 1:13 pm April 8, 2014 #

  12. so Sawant is saying NO based on who the anchor tenant will be? what a conflict that is….the council’s decision should not be based on whether the tenant is union or not.

    is Sawant taking kick backs for her efforts?

    Comment by joel — 1:24 pm April 8, 2014 #

  13. Joel, regardless of what you think of her or her politics, that seemed very consistent with what she espoused while running and since elected. Mayor Murray said in our recent interview that he was willing to have a discussion on whether those types of considerations should be part of the street/alley-vacation process in the future, but he didn’t think it right that projects already in the pipeline should have the rules changed on them, fwiw. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:28 pm April 8, 2014 #

  14. So technically – its a yes vote?

    Comment by wsrez — 1:28 pm April 8, 2014 #

  15. David, I’m not clear on how you feel about Jefferson Square :-)

    Comment by Azimuth — 1:33 pm April 8, 2014 #

  16. It’s a yes vote from this committee, today, and that vote happened to include a majority of councilmembers. But it’s not final until the full Council meeting a week from Tuesday, at which time the final vote will be taken. There is nothing to say one or all of them couldn’t change their mind(s) – either way – this doesn’t bind them to vote the same way then that they voted now.

    Comment by WSB — 1:35 pm April 8, 2014 #

  17. Sawant is an idiot and things like this should never be based on who is going into a site in the future as they might not be there the whole time.

    Comment by Scott — 1:37 pm April 8, 2014 #

  18. Thanks for clarification – so grateful for your reporting.

    Comment by wsrez — 1:43 pm April 8, 2014 #

  19. WSB….thanks for the 411 on her but decisions such as this should be based on law/regulations etc and precedent and not whether am employer is unionized or not. Rassmusen seems as though he can put the BS to the side and focus on the regulations/law etc to make decisions.
    it’s like news….WSB reports the news and leaves personal opinion out of the news it reports. The council, including Sawant, should leave personal opinion out of decisions and base decisions on code/law/guidelines etc

    Comment by joel — 1:46 pm April 8, 2014 #

  20. is calling our elected city councilmember an “idiot” acceptable here?

    Comment by Diane — 2:17 pm April 8, 2014 #

  21. One of the results of this whole drawn out process is that from this point forward developers will not utter a word about who they may/may not have signed up as a tenant for their building until the opening soon sign is up. The public will just get the standard response, “We’re talking with a number of retailers at this time.”
    -
    I’m not aware of any rule saying developers must publicly release the specific name of a potential tenant they are dealing with. Banks may want that for funding, but I’m not sure that would need to be publicly released. Keeping quiet with that info until all the hurdles are cleared will make it a much cleaner process for them; however, it will also be one of the negative outcomes from this process for the general public.
    -
    In the future it will be…we’re half way done with construction and (enter name of your choice of despised national chain or big box retailer X) has just signed a 20 year lease and now your stuck with it.
    -
    Developers, if nothing else, are savvy and will always go with the path of least resistance; often to the detriment of the public good because we aren’t the ones paying the bills and filling their coffers.

    Comment by consequences — 2:17 pm April 8, 2014 #

  22. Jeers to all the opponents who wasted everyone’s time and the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars (not to mention jobs) that could have been in the pipeline if the project had gone forward at even a snail’s pace.

    Everyone knows the whole alley vacation issue was a joke. That alley was a dump that no one other than urinating bums and litterers used. And that held this project up? Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. And the union bosses wonder why their numbers are dwindling. Pull your heads out.

    Comment by 33Pete — 2:19 pm April 8, 2014 #

  23. “Consequences” – no, there’s no rule, but I would hazard to say that announcing Whole Foods bought them goodwill as well as concern. I also don’t think it would have been possible to hide, as there were specific things in the plan that were tailored to the specific tenant. And somewhere along the line, sketches become public, or almost-public … there was never an official announcement that LA Fitness, for example, would be part of the reborn project in “The Hole,” but we went downtown and looked at the hard-copy plan sets and found the rendering that had them on the front page (along with the new project page). Because of the alley vacation, the reworked project had to go back before the Design Commission in 2012 and that to date is the only public discussion of the tenant and the final plan.
    .
    As for this one, one other note: It hasn’t gotten much mention since the alley-vacation issue took centerstage but they also launched by saying a drugstore would be included, and while they didn’t name the prospective tenant, they proposed a drive-thru, which narrowed down the list of possibilities. The project team eventually took out the drive-through after the various design reviewers frowned on it. That was one big concern about traffic safety internally on the project site, and it’s been out of the plan for some months.
    .
    Meantime, Getting It Right for West Seattle has just sent its official post-vote statement and I am adding it to the story right now – TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:24 pm April 8, 2014 #

  24. Sorry, but I cannot stand “Getting it Right for West Seattle!” Many West Seattleites are clamoring for a Whole Foods, myself included. I love WS but this liberal propaganda is driving me batty.

    Comment by Irritated in WS — 2:36 pm April 8, 2014 #

  25. I agree with you, Irritated. If people didn’t want to live in the city, maybe they shouldn’t be living in the city…

    Comment by A. — 2:42 pm April 8, 2014 #

  26. WSB, I understand these projects are very calculated and I’m sure developers have that internal good will vs. bad will discussion when announcing tenants.
    -
    I’ve also worked on similar projects as an architect and if a developer paying your fee asks for the drawings and renderings to be vague and not name names on the drawings, title block, or cover sheets, that’s easy to do. It all goes back to that path of least resistance. It’s also why most Seattle apartments vary between three shades of beige. They’ve done the studies for what offends the fewest people and creates the fewest controversies.
    -
    Sure you’d be able to tell from the drawings if there was a large retail space with a loading dock that it is likely a grocery store, but they also may have avoided this whole circus sideshow of non-union Whole Foods vs. the Union if the floor plans only said retail or even grocery store, and the renderings say “Market.”
    -
    I’d bet this developer and others watching this project will make note of lessons learned and take whatever steps they feel are necessary to make a smoother, cheaper process going forward.

    Comment by consequences — 3:04 pm April 8, 2014 #

  27. I for one am delighted that the long process is almost over and that we may have something other than an eyesore on the most prominent corner of West Seattle’s defining intersection. People outside the peninsula tend to think of WS as something akin to Appalachia, and the appearance of that corner has contributed mightily to this perception. I’m happy to see us take a step forward, and pleased that the proposed internal circulation design will take pressure off Fauntleroy. And I believe that the ability to call an elected official an idiot for positions that he or she espouses is an appropriate expression of the First Amendment rights that keep our country strong.

    Comment by JY in WS — 3:05 pm April 8, 2014 #

  28. I would like to thank those city counsel members who voted against the alley vacation; they are actually looking at the big picture and the long term results. How refreshing! I honestly don’t see why having a Whole Foods is so great; it’s just another grocery store people! And building another cheap development is not the answer to sustainable community. Someone mentioned all of these new buildings like the Mural being so attractive. Sure for now they are just the newest, trendy places to be. And in 5 or 10 years they will all look like Jefferson Square because there is no quality construction involved. Must be easy for some residents to voice an opinion as they can just pack up and move to the new trendy part of town once an area becomes uninhabitable due to traffic, crime, over-development. It’s not a very good way to build a community though.

    Comment by RainyDay — 3:07 pm April 8, 2014 #

  29. Two no votes because the didn’t like or understand the design and basically discredited the City staff’s expertise. Licata doesn’t understand the purpose of a mid-block connector! Why is he even there? He’s the boss that doesn’t show interest then comes to the meeting unprepared and you spend most the time bringing him up to speed in which he still doesn’t care but just wants everybody to know he’s there. O’Brien is his lackey that has no experience in transportation and urban design. Savant, well… at least she’s transparent.

    Comment by McFail — 3:33 pm April 8, 2014 #

  30. Well stated JY in WS, “People outside the peninsula tend to think of WS as something akin to Appalachia, and the appearance of that corner has contributed mightily to this perception.”

    Comment by Irratated in WS — 3:33 pm April 8, 2014 #

  31. Maybe Whole Foods isn’t so great, maybe it is. It’s a choice that Getting it Right for West Seattle wants to deny many residents who support the project… entirely due to their union ties. Given the constant badgering and harassment by Getting it Right for West Seattle to scare residents into opposing this project, the knocking on the door by Union reps, the calls, etc. I for one may choose to not shop at retailers associated with Getting it Right, like PCC and Metropolitan Market, due 100% to the shenanigans of Getting it Right for West Seattle and their Union driven agenda against development. If only we could overcome our collective action problems as supporters of the project we could really send Getting it Right for West Seattle a message that their actions have real consequences.

    Comment by Neighbor — 4:03 pm April 8, 2014 #

  32. Maybe WSB should stop publishing every press release and letter that “Getting it Right for West Seattle” pumps out. I wonder how differently this would’ve played out. As for the statement from an earlier comment regarding the objectivity of WSB – the political leanings are clear.

    Comment by An Idea — 4:20 pm April 8, 2014 #

  33. Please please please build this! The face of WS right now is a fenced up, hypodermic needle riddled parking lot with graffiti covered buildings. Apparently, this is what “Getting it Right for West Seattle” thinks WS needs???

    Comment by KC — 4:30 pm April 8, 2014 #

  34. THANK YOU Councilmembers O’Brien, Licata and Sawant for voting NO. This development is bad for our community, and the vast majority of our neighbors agree that we deserve better.

    Thank you to the hundreds of West Seattle residents who took action at one time or another over the past year to advocate for a liveable, walkable development.

    I’m not surprised that these out-of-state Texas and Florida developers would propose something like this for our community, but I did expect our elected officials to prioritize our neighborhood’s interests and our local Triangle Plan guidelines.

    I’d rather advocate for my beliefs and lose, than drive by a disaster of a development and wonder why no one did anything.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 5:13 pm April 8, 2014 #

  35. Again, fascinated at how little attention there is to the buses of Whole Foods workers that were brought in by the tenant, and that virtually all of the comments revolved around Whole Foods, but the OPPOSITION (who focused largely on traffic, safety, and design) are accused of being obsessed with Whole Foods. Really??

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 5:19 pm April 8, 2014 #

  36. Consequences,

    You are spot on…I’m an Architect with a project right now and we are not identifying the user because of this WF fiasco.

    Seamom

    Comment by seamom — 5:52 pm April 8, 2014 #

  37. @ An Idea – do you mean that by its coverage WSB has shown a leaning in this discussion? If so, I’d like to understand your reasoning more.

    WSB has certainly covered this issue thoroughly – and it is news when the single largest development in WS becomes a political hot potato in a Mayor’s race and then still needs to get sorted out.

    Many people in West Seattle rely on WSB as their primary local news source, and I have found their unbiased journalism to be fairly exceptional.

    Even if I didn’t agree with the points of the letter posted last night from the anti-alley vacation folks, I appreciated knowing that WSB will provide me access to understand the latest information.

    @ AlkiGirl – most of the pro-comments at the meeting today were about the benefit of the development, only a couple of people actually centered on the primary tenant. The same was true for those commenting against the development.

    Comment by Sutton — 6:16 pm April 8, 2014 #

  38. I’m happy to see this advancing.

    I was especially pleased to hear one gentleman call to everyone’s attention that GIRFWS is devoting little if any attention to other projects in WS (despite what commenters here and GIRFWS reps will tell you). I admire Joe Rogoff from Whole Foods Market for keeping himself grounded and reminding everyone that the tenant should not be a factor.

    With all due respect to GIRFWS members, their words and actions came off as immature. I have the right in a free market to support retailers that offer me foods and services that I want to buy in my neighborhood.

    Comment by Pleased — 6:57 pm April 8, 2014 #

  39. “Union bosses”? “Liberal propaganda”? Hand-wringing over the “s” word? What is this, the 1950′s?

    Liberals and unions made this town that so many have flocked to to live out their vapid, unimaginative “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Singles” fantasies while working in something stupid like marketing, or offshore-able like software development.

    And now, horrors of horrors, some council members dare to question a developer who wants to bring in some silly nouveau riche grocery store chain for silly people with too much money to shop at so they can feel validated in their lifestyle choices.

    Well, everyone can unclench their jaws and untwist their panties because this is Seattle, where the Almighty dollar always wins the day and folks like Murray and Rasmussen are the modern-day Lou Graham’s (without nearly as much class).

    Yeah, the building should be built. And the alley is an eyesore, and no loss to the community. But the new ninnyism of West Seattle is really disheartening. This city is being overrun by twits.

    Comment by Henry Yesler — 8:55 pm April 8, 2014 #

  40. I am THRILLED Whole Foods is coming to West Seattle. I am tired of driving to Interbay for my WF shopping. WF will provide some sorely needed jobs as well as give Fauntleroy a facelift and raise property values. Three cheers!

    Comment by Rebecca Oshiro — 9:10 pm April 8, 2014 #

  41. AlkiGirl – Don’t forget the truckloads of union workers from god-knows-where who got carted in as well. It was comedy at its finest. Traffic, safety, and design? All of those “concerns” are complete and total baloney.
    Why would people be wandering around a truck loading dock? Do people wander around the docks at QFC? Safeway? Or any other union market? Why is it that the proposed West Seattle Whole Foods the only loading dock/alley on the planet where human life is in peril?
    It’s an alley, not a park in which to play frisbee and chase butterflies.
    Traffic? Where was the hysteria when the site across the street, now lovingly referred to as “the hole,” was being proposed (or any other of the now-ubiquitous buildings sprouting in the Junction like massive concrete mushrooms)? Why is there no hysteria now? Seems to me that place and the rest of them will be a massive source of cars. Oh wait, maybe not, they’re not including 600 parking spaces for residents and visitors.
    This continued pro-union silliness masquerading under the thin veil of ‘concern’ for the neighborhood is starting to get old, frankly. More and more people are realizing they’ve been hoodwinked by the Getting It Right people.

    Comment by XXX — 9:44 pm April 8, 2014 #

  42. What is so great about Whole Foods? Seriously? Someone? Anyone? I agree the hole should be filled – with something nice. But ANOTHER grocery store? Man! First World Problems people.

    Comment by AmandaKH — 10:07 pm April 8, 2014 #

  43. I agree with AlkiGirl’s observation. So many of these recent comments coming from people/names I don’t often (or ever!) see here seem to be basing their arguments on ‘talking points’ that don’t reflect the reality, or the truth. Are we really expected to believe that people in our community are this excited about granting an alley vacation to a developer, or so vehemently pursuing an opportunity to shop at Whole Foods? Or that an argument in favor of smart development is solely a ploy for union power, or to keep a key parcel of land in the hands of homeless junkies? Sorry, Whole Foods and Big, Out-of-State Developers: we’re smarter than that.

    Comment by Keith — 11:37 pm April 8, 2014 #

  44. Hey Keith, I don’t post on WSB very often but the opposition to this project has annoyed me enough to speak my mind here. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve lived here more than 15 years and the fact that I rarely post should not discount my thoughts.

    I hope this project stays on track and the alley vacation is approved. The approval process isn’t supposed to be a popular vote on a development project.

    Comment by Paul — 5:44 am April 9, 2014 #

  45. “Must be easy for some residents to voice an opinion as they can just pack up and move to the new trendy part of town once an area becomes uninhabitable due to traffic, crime, over-developmetā€™s not a very good way to build a community though” – RainyDay

    Yes,because all of those places where they have built a WholeFoods have gone downhill. Oh wait, the opposite is true. Don’t let a little thing like truth get in your way there RainyDay.

    “Are we really expected to believe that people in our community are this excited about granting an alley vacation to a developer, or so vehemently pursuing an opportunity to shop at Whole Foods” – Keith

    No Keith, we are excited to have a nice project developed with a stellar anchor teneant where there has been a whole in the ground. And nobody really cares about a pee and garbage filled alley that was rarely used going away. The alley issue was just a red herring that the opposition latched on to as a way to push their agenda and derail the project. Thankfully, the council did’nt bite.

    Oh and the reason you see so many posting here who have not before is that they are finally fed up with all the opposition garbage and want to make sure that their voices are heard even though they are not part of the vocal minority known as Getting it Right for West Seattle.

    Comment by 33Pete — 7:56 am April 9, 2014 #

  46. option 1 – peeing in a dead end alley or option 2 – businesses providing jobs, housing and retail to the community…….

    Option 3 – vacate the alley for this development or option 4 – don’t vacate the alley and a much larger development goes up with little city approval needed……enough of the union scare tactics. unions prefer group think over thinking for yourself.

    Comment by joel — 8:28 am April 9, 2014 #

  47. 33Pete, you nailed it!

    Comment by Irritated in WS — 9:17 am April 9, 2014 #

  48. While I do appreciate the City Council being thorough with their consideration of this project, and potentially outlining an updated version of “what constitutes a public benefit,” I’m slightly befuddled by the opposition to this project.

    Firstly, the attack on Whole Foods as a tenant has been unfair, misguided, and should not be discussed on an issue that is mostly about transportation and safety. But much more than that, it is one of the only grocery chains ranked in the top 100 places to work for by Fortune magazine, and statistically, their total compensation package ( wage, benefits, options ), is among the best in the grocery industry. The attack from unions that they are not going to provide livable wage jobs or quality jobs to the area is so ridiculous and wrong, it actually makes me question the judgement and integrity of some of the opposition to the project, as well as some of the city council members for even permitting the discussion.

    Secondly, I was one of about 1/6th of the people who stayed beyond the public comment hearing at the last city council meeting to hear the review of the entire project and it’s overall benefits package to the community. So yes, I’m one of the few people who chose to actually fully educate themselves on the project, instead of marching to the city council to blow hot and hair and toss my one-sided opinions around. From what I observed, the project is beautiful, large, grand, and beyond the size of what West Seattle is used to. It will absolutely increase traffic in the area, but the pedestrian safety concerns are minimal for the size of the project. The developers have gone through every existing advisory board, and process, to try to meet the demanding needs of the community and the city, while adding transportation/road improvements to almost every block, sidewalk, corner, etc. surrounding the project . The only people who wouldn’t approve this project in their right mind are people who are asking too much, or are against large development project in general. Councilman O’Brien was the only legit opposition in my opinion, who said he’d rather use the space for building apartments only. Fair enough. You don’t need another grocery store really. But as far as the public benefits, and safety of the project is concerned, it’s very well planned and socially equable for the size and scope of it.

    Comment by Jeff Thimgan — 10:15 am April 9, 2014 #

  49. All I have to say is W/S just lost the perfect place for a transit hub/parking garage. If the city ever had any serious intentions on putting a mass transit system in for W/S they would of bought this property for its location with easy access in and out of town along with handling ferry traffic using shuttles from ferry to hub. There is no other place like this in W/S. Funny how they can spend multi-millions for future park sites but not invest in future transit. This property sale price was very reasonable next time if they can find property it will cost a lot more. They should have bought this property cleared it planted grass a few palm trees and held onto it for future use. Now people will say the money comes from different funds I say hog wash. Their moving money around all the time. Very bad city planning by our city counsel/government. Which also shows me they have little concern or care about our traffic problems now and future. They talk the talk but their actions show otherwise. Have fun sitting in traffic and 1hr commutes downtown coming soon, and if your commute is farther you better plan your life around it as they our doing little for I-5 flow, it don’t move we don’t.
    This city is loosening standards for big money groups by giving alley-vacations like this almost same deal as what’s happing with all the waterfront property being opened up, public property going into private hands. Something to think about, ands makes it easier for the next grab. I have nothing against this project but I really do think once again the city screwed up on this one. Glad I own property here because renting along with cost of living is going to make it very expensive.

    Comment by wetone — 10:49 am April 9, 2014 #

  50. Please, please stop wasting time and money and approve this project. I hope the council members read these comments and realize that most of West Seattle is in favor of this project. I am ready for the eyesore of old buildings and littered lots to be gone and to have a vibrant and attractive development in it’s place.

    We want this project to be approved and this obstructionism and money wasting has gone on for far too long.

    Comment by RitaCoop — 11:12 am April 9, 2014 #

  51. There are a number of dedicated community members behind that letter that are not union. They go to many of the DRB meetings and spend a tireless amount of time sitting on various neighborhood boards to give back to our WS community. They are not union vs non-union. They are not WF vs no WF. The tenant is irrelevant. These folks are not getting won over by a tenant or a pretty rendering the developer throws out there. They are paying attention to the fine print, something most people do not bother to review or read. They want to see this parcel get developed just like you, but want it to be in the best interest of the neighborhood over the next century, not just the next 5-10 years. Here’s some of the fine print:

    * The finish floor elevation (FFE) of the large tenant space is being set at 6-8 feet below grade. This affects the entire frontage along Alaska Street. IF (or when) WF decides to vacate that space, whether that be in 5 years or 25, this very large space could sit empty for a very long time. Why is this. Because it is not being designed to change with time. It cannot be subdivided to allow smaller retail spaces b/c there is no way to get access down 6-8 feet of grade into a smaller retail frontage. No typical neighborhood tenant like you see in the Junction or Admiral and Morgon Junctions is looking for or can afford a space this large. It will only accommodate corporate chain businesses whether that be a grocer, Staples/Office Max or LA Fitness type of business. Why not design the framework to allow this site to change over time with the economy and neighborhood? Would having this large space sitting empty/vacant for potentially years on end in the future be an appropriate welcome into WS for you? Or having it transition into a Home Depot or Office Max at our main gateway into our neighborhood b/c nothing smaller can physically work in the space?

    The developer was asked multiple times by the community reviews and boards to take a portion of the footprint and bring it up to sidewalk grade. The grocery tenant could take their internal program such as their coffee shop, floral department and cafe and place those along Alaska Street with entrances opening at grade activating the sidewalk zone. This does not prohibit the viability of WF to be in the space. It just requires them to design the space to the parameters of this site and for the future longevity and health of the neighborhood. They have chosen to ignore those comments and requests over the last two years b/c they want to place the footprint they use in all of their stores found throughout the US rather than designing what is appropriate for this specific site/neighborhood.

    * The mid-block connector is meant to be a pedestrian focused space per the Triangle Framework Plan. While the existing alley may by unsightly now, that does not mean all pedestrian pass through and safety should be sacrificed in the new development. Anything is not better than nothing in the bigger, long term picture. The Triangle Urban Design Framework plans calls for the west half of the mid-block to be pedestrian only. Why? 40th is designated as a ‘neighborhood green street’. That means a street that is pedestrian and environmentally focused. It is meant to be a low volume vehicular street where folks can come with their friends/family and enjoy a quiet, sustainable linear parklet that makes a pedestrian friendly walking connection between the new Triangle neighborhood and our historic Junction. Instead, the developer wants a third point of access to allow hundreds of cars including a lot of semi and box truck delivery vehicles to cross over this sidewalk space where you’re supposed to be able to allow your kids to play, walk your dog, etc.

    In addition, making it pedestrian only would mean the community would get either ground related residential or small retail entries opening out onto that mid-block space. By doing so, you are putting eyes on a space for day and night safety and changing the balance from vehicular only to one more balanced with a focus on people (on foot, bike, etc). This is what the Triangle Vision Plan calls for. These design studies are done with our future in mind. Our future over the next 100 years, not the immediate b/c you or I may really want a certain store to open in WS.

    * Gateway – a lot has been said about creating an appropriate gateway to WS. This intersection is paramount as the gateway into the community. If the tenant is so desirable, why not move the main entrance to this gateway corner to celebrate it and anchor it with an appropriately sized plaza space. Put the main entry at grade, at the gateway and create a sizable gateway plaza that allows the cafe, floral and coffee shop program to spill out onto that plaza to activate it with people, art, seating, and a space to do seasonal functions and community celebration. The tiny little notch the applicant is showing is barely 700-800 SF and is not activated by the building uses. It will become an unused space overrun with undesirables due to its poor urban design.

    * None of the fine print points above are new to the developer. These have been asked of them over the past two years. They chose to strong arm their way through the process to get what they want with the least amount of commitment from the project. The city is giving these alley vacations away like water. Just like water, our alley system, held in public trust, are finite and essential to our urban fabric for future generations. Instead of taking the land out of the public trust, allow a location change instead. Let the applicant show a fully thought out design with the current alley configuration to prove it doesn’t work. To date, they have not done that, at least not publicly at the board/commission level. If it is deemed the vacation is the only way, then do so but with the conditions like those stated above to ensure this project becomes and stays an asset to the WS community for many decades and generations to come. Making the changes above will not run this developer or tenant out of town. Trust me when I say, they want to be in WS and they want to be in this location. They have had two years to do the right thing, but have chosen not to. Please forget about the tenant you so want to shop at, stop thinking anything is better than nothing and pay attention to the fine print. These changes will not stop the project, they will only make it a more appropriate, better fit for WS not just today but for your kids and grandkids down the road.

    * The developer can and will make the appropriate changes without killing the project if the Council does their job, reviews the fine print and conditions the changes into their decision. The DRB and Design Commission processes failed the community on this project. They got worn down by the applicant and by the lack of changes and passed it on like a hot potato hoping someone further down the line would take care of it. This is the last chance to get this right. I do hope our Council reads the fine print, demands some changes and gets it right.

    Comment by AN — 2:27 pm April 9, 2014 #

  52. Thank you to Councilmembers Rasmussen, Bagshaw, Godden, Clark, and Burgess. You saw the big picture.
    ..
    This project, with a bike lane extending from the new Fauntleroy Boulevard, a Whole Foods, smaller storefronts, RapidRide proximity, plus a much-improved alley opening to a new park on 40th, is absolutely in the public interest. This will be obvious once it’s built and buzzing with commerce and foot traffic.
    ..
    UFCW 21 went too far on this one. They were not straightforward with the public about what GIR4WS’ agenda was: to punish and block Whole Foods.

    Comment by Grant — 3:52 pm April 9, 2014 #

  53. just for the simple fact that the citizens of West Seattle have needlessly held up this project for sooooo long I hope the developer opens up a very large multi story WALMART

    Comment by Brian — 5:16 pm April 9, 2014 #

  54. Thank you AN, nicely put. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the tenant, they may come and go. Ultimately what matters is the lasting effect on the community. Disheartened by some comments and individuals choosing to disregard thoughts beyond their own personal convenience and their proximity to WF.

    Comment by George — 7:47 pm April 9, 2014 #

  55. AN, if GIR4WS was not against the tenant then they should not have visited my house (which will have a direct view of this development) on several occasions to tell me why I shouldn’t support the development because of Whole Foods. Maybe you’re right that some members of GIR4WS have a broader agenda, but their efforts with regard to this project were a complete failure due to the blatant lies they came around telling residents and their trolling on every website possible to get people to oppose this project. When I asked the GIR4WS folks who came to my door (a couple women who said they lived in WS; a guy who GIR4WS paid to canvass the neighborhood who doesn’t even live in the area, etc.) what their primary concerns were about this project, they emphasized the tenant. So, if you’re honest about the intentions of GIR4WS, then you should consider new leadership and new messaging, because what you describe is absolutely not the message the folks who came to my house delivered. Further, when I called into question the facts and assumptions GIR4WS presented, the GIR4WS literally ran away from my house and said I would be no help to their cause. So again, message not received if their intentions were anything other than being anti-tenant. I followed them to the street to express my concerns and they told me I could attend one of the planning meetings and express those concerns myself, but once I expressed favor for the tenant, they wanted nothing to do with me. And their lies and aggressive behavior has absolutely turned me against anything they support until I see improved leadership and a reasonable platform that doesn’t rely on fearmongering and false assertions.
    -
    At the end of the day I still don’t think the issues raised by AN are insurmountable, and if WF is that eager to get into this market, then why is GIR4WS concerned that they’ll just up and leave the space in a few years – that doesn’t make sense given the logic you outline. WS is not going to devolve into a less ideal market. I do like the idea of the pedestrian zone, but is it realistic to expect this particular area to be a pedestrian friendly zone, ever – if we can’t even convince a majority WS residents to take 1 fewer trip in their car and walk or use public transportation to get to local businesses or downtown (again, it’s doable – I do it every day)?
    -
    Speaking of the Triangle and neighborhood green street, some of your ideas sound nice and you seem committed to the whole of WS, but where has GIR4WS been in the debates on all the other developments taking place? What’s GIR4WS’ position on the proposed single story CVS with a large parking lot that’s to be built across the street from Whole Foods? I haven’t been visited by GIR4WS about opposition to that project – but I’d expect to if they’re true intentions are to represent positive, quality developments for this green corridor you describe. What’s GIR4WS’ position on microhousing? Again, GIR4WS seems entirely opposed to the Weingarten Project for some reason and not really on the good of the community and all proposed projects.

    Comment by Neighbor — 7:18 am April 10, 2014 #

  56. In regards to some of the comments about what will happen when Whole Foods leaves – what are the chances of that happening in the next 20 years? I tried to look up how many of these stores close but couldn’t find much. I’m just saying I am guessing that WF strategy does not include packing up and leaving in 10 years. Both the SLU and Elliot WF are always packed with similar competition close by. Also both of these areas are growing especially in what I assume to be WF target demographic. It’s probably less comparable but the WF in Bellevue actually expanded in the past year or so.

    Maybe I’m completely off base and some new food resolution will come about causing grocery stores to go the way of blockbuster. I don’t really see it though. To throw out that when whole foods leaves in 2034 this will be an urban blight as a reason to further delay this project seems a stretch.

    Also, to the comment that the neighborhood will become overrun with crime because of overdevelopment and projects like this – wow.

    As a newer resident I respect that some long time residents of the neighborhood might be anti change. The thing is the change is coming one way or another. I think through responsible growth and projects like this one WS will be a better and more vibrant neighborhood.

    Comment by Dave H — 9:08 am April 10, 2014 #

  57. In addition to the comments to “AN” noted by Neighbor and Dave H, it also bears mention that this concern about a future tenant not liking the below sidewalk grade in the unlikely event Whole Foods leaves overlooks the obvious fact that it is the developer who is transforming this space from nothing into Class A commercial property.

    Comment by 33Pete — 12:28 pm April 10, 2014 #

  58. SO TIRED OF THIS issue!!! Please please please build this and GET ON WITH IT!!

    I want to give a huge bear hug to each and every council member who voted YES on this.

    And count me among the growing population of folks SERIOUSLY suspicious of GiRFWS . . .

    Comment by Ginnysvoice — 9:33 am April 11, 2014 #

  59. I was glad to see the City Council approved the street vacation for the project. It is too bad that a few people in Seattle (and WS) are such sticks in the mud. Really, what is so wrong with investment in our community? Anyone that actually gets out in the world – travels across the US, Canada and Europe can see Seattle has lost it. Not even close to competitive on a world scale as a “livable” city. Way too much dissent over moving forward. If other cities, with substantially less wealth and per capita income can invest in a future, why can’t we? I can only hope this is one of the many baby steps needed to get us back on track.

    Comment by William — 9:46 am April 12, 2014 #

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