Become parkland, or remain beach house? County, city, community to decide fate of 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW

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(WSB photos)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost a year after the Barton Pump Station Upgrade Project north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock was finished, and adjacent Cove Park restored and reopened, a loose end dangles: The future of the little white beachfront house at 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW, immediately north of Cove Park.

King County bought it to use as a construction office during the three-year pump-station project.

Now, as was revealed in a discussion at last night’s Fauntleroy Community Association meeting, there’s a chance its site could become a slice of city parkland – at little-to-no cost for the city. Sort of an expansion of Cove Park, though that is actually a community-maintained, SDOT-owned street end.

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Some neighbors are adamantly opposed to the idea, wanting the house to remain in use as a single-family residence, and were at the FCA meeting to say that directly to Chip Nevins, acquisition manager for Parks, who was there, he said, as early “due diligence” in determining the site’s fate.

Nevins explained that while Parks generally wouldn’t have an interest in acquiring Fauntleroy-area property, since the area is already “rich” in parkland – including Lincoln Park a short distance north – it would be hard to resist a chance to get something like this for free or near-free. If someone was told “do you want to make the park bigger and it won’t cost you any money, why wouldn’t you?” he asked.

Assessor’s records show the county bought the 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 1948-built house and its 35-foot-wide, one-third-acre lot (tidelands included) for $950,000 in 2008. Now, it’s considered surplus, and that status, as with most government agencies, triggers a disposition process. Nevins said the county has suggested a sort of swap might be possible – its pump station includes some land leased from SDOT that, like Cove Park, is technically part of the Barton street end, but if it could get possession of that land – through a street-vacation process – the city could wind up with 8923 Fauntleroy Way in return.

This would be something of a complicated process, not just because of the street vacation, but also because Parks would want to figure out if there is community interest in acquiring the beachfront site. So a public meeting will be organized, and some other means of feedback will be set up. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was at last night’s meeting – to “observe” this item, she explained – and indicated she’d already been hearing from “both sides”; if a street vacation is involved, it ultimately would require approval from the City Council, so she and her colleagues also would be getting feedback.

If the site was accepted by Parks, what would be done with it? one attendee asked. Nevins suggested at one point that at the very least they would probably want the county to pay to have the house demolished, so that wouldn’t become the city’s responsibility. Beyond that – maybe open space? Or at least some plantings? One neighbor expressed concern that while the current administration might decide on that, someone down the line might decide to build a picnic shelter or other facilities that could attract more, and more problematic, usage.

Nevins reiterated that many questions remain to be answered – such as, has the city been making money in permit payments for the county’s usage of the pump station site, and would that be revenue lost in this prospective deal? (If we’ve found the correct city legislation, it appears the county pays the city $84,387 a year.)

And, he added, many layers of process remain to be gone through. The public meeting would likely happen before summer, though, so stay tuned; if the city and county moved forward with what in essence would be a “trade,” the process would likely take up to two more years.

76 Replies to "Become parkland, or remain beach house? County, city, community to decide fate of 8923 Fauntleroy Way SW"

  • JeffK April 13, 2016 (4:46 pm)

    How about subdivide off the beach portion to add to the park and sell the house?

    • QG April 17, 2016 (11:30 am)

      There is 75 feet of street end park. That lot is only 35 feet. 

  • S April 13, 2016 (5:48 pm)

    Wow that would be great if that house became an extension of Cove park! Seems like a no-brainer at that price.

  • Joe Szilagyi April 13, 2016 (6:49 pm)

    Why on Earth would FCA members prefer that this house stay a single family home? Can someone explain the logic here?

    • candrewb April 14, 2016 (5:30 am)

      The motivation is to keep the poors away

    • Petra April 15, 2016 (6:59 pm)

      Some FCA members are beach owners and the FCA has supported Cove Park in the past.  The FCA hasn’t taken a position yet.  So far it is just a few, primarily, beach owners who live close to the park who appose the expansion of the park.  No one has said it directly, however it does appear to be about their concern for misuse of the waterfront, living next door to the public space, and wanting to keep control of Cove Park rather than allowing the Parks Dept to care for it and part of long-term decisions.

    • QG April 17, 2016 (11:22 am)

      Yes, I can. Because it will be a high price to pay for another city park. The land isn’t free. It cost the county $1M of our tax payers money to buy. It will cost taxpayers even more money to demo the site, build the park, then maintain it. That land is valuable land zoned for single family home. The city has an annual revenue stream from property tax that goes towards important programs. Is each home owner prepared to have their property taxes increased to pay for the maintenance of the park. Not to mention the undesirable actions that go along w/ having a park. We have a gorgeous park 1/4 mile down the road with plenty of parking. Which is another point. Trying to park to access the City park. Residence already have an issue with the parking since the parking lot for the ferry is temporarily closed. 

  • old timer April 13, 2016 (6:56 pm)

    IMO, that’s an awful lot of assessed/taxable property to be taken off the tax rolls.

    While it might be ‘free’ from Nevin’s perspective, it’s a loss for the community as far as tax income is concerned.  With expenses for everything from roads, to homeless, to schools growing ever larger,

    I think it unwise to give up a perpetual income source, especially since real money would have to be spent to perform the transaction – demolition, planting and eternal maintenance.

    • KT April 13, 2016 (7:49 pm)

      “…Parks generally wouldn’t have an interest in acquiring Fauntleroy-area property, since the area is already “rich” in parkland..”  Sell it and put money back into existing parks.

  • Petra April 13, 2016 (7:36 pm)

    It would really add to this neighborhood waterfront park! So many people walk down to the water and sit and just look out. It is a wonderful public space for all.

  • aRF April 13, 2016 (7:44 pm)

    Well, these things are never truly cost-less, but it is a great opportunity to expand Cove Park and regain the tidewater. The expanded park should be designed to respect the neighborhoods’ concern about noise and privacy.

  • Bonnie April 13, 2016 (8:02 pm)

    That would be an awesome coffee shop or little restaurant.

    • Petra April 13, 2016 (9:25 pm)

      I agree a neighborhood coffee house with a great view would be a perfect walk-to spot.  Remember, no parking.  No Parking.  Ferry traffic cars and walkers.

  • Marty Oppenheimer April 13, 2016 (8:03 pm)

    I can speak representing the Seattle organization Friends of Street Ends and I know that we would heartily support incorporation of this property into the adjacent street end, both for public access, by law the highest outcome for a shoreline street end, as well as for habitat development.

    • MC April 14, 2016 (10:55 am)

      This street end park has 75 feet of waterfront,  over 150,000$ of art/landscaping,… plus benches/kiosk/boat launch, educational signs, ADA view platform, rain garden and more. 

      Our community lobbied to establish this park in 1995 before SDOT oversight, Karen Daubert and Friends of Street Ends came on the scene. 

      100 of our 149 shoreline street ends remain unavailable to public use. Our money should be spent on any of those worthy sites first. 

  • Joel April 13, 2016 (8:15 pm)

    What is the zoning for this land?  If it’s single family leave as a house

    • WSB April 13, 2016 (8:22 pm)

      Sorry, I should have mentioned that. It is a single-family house and zoned as such.

    • S April 14, 2016 (12:47 pm)

      What is your rationale for leaving it as a house? I would be all for re-zoning to a park, as it would benefit more people that way and help beautify West Seattle.

  • Ms_F April 13, 2016 (8:27 pm)

    Every time I am in Vancouver, BC, I marvel at how they have beautiful  restaurants for all the public to enjoy in their parks.  That would be the perfect place for a beautiful little coffeehouse that people could enjoy on rainy days while gazing out at the beach. Wouldn’t that be a nice income stream for the city instead of paying to demolish it? 

  • Janine April 13, 2016 (8:33 pm)

    park to launch a boat or paddle board from.

    • MC April 14, 2016 (10:56 am)

      Already there. 

  • Michele JA April 13, 2016 (8:45 pm)

    Museum with the coffee shop?  Don’t they always turn the old house on the property into a museum?

    • QG April 17, 2016 (11:27 am)

      While a museum or coffee shop sound like a lovely idea, first, this is zoned for residential, not commercial. Second, the ferry terminal has a place to get coffee & food. Lastly, again this will cost tax payer money in the end. 

  • BB April 13, 2016 (9:02 pm)

    As a Fauntleroy resident I would love to see the park expanded.  This is a sandy beach an perfect for launching kayaks and paddleboards.

  • Tracy White April 13, 2016 (9:17 pm)

    Any sort of commercial property there is going to have parking woes like you would not believe. I think a coffee house that catered to Lincoln Park and ferry traffic would do best, especially if they had “runners” to deliver coffee and other beverages to people waiting in their cars for the ferry (GPS enabled smartphone app to know how far up Fauntleroy to run?)

  • Gene April 13, 2016 (9:24 pm)

    While not on the water- there’s already a nice little coffee shop, bakery & restaurant just up the block. If it’s zoned single family- changing that could be problematic for that neighborhood.

    • Joe Szilagyi April 14, 2016 (5:35 pm)

      Problematic how? Single family homes and zones are not sacrosanct or any more or less important than any other land use.

  • JAT April 13, 2016 (9:52 pm)

    Neighbors probably fear a public use leading to riff raff gaining access to “their” beach (little known Wash St Constitution provision: tidelands up to the high water mark are public).  All sorts of private roads and fences and no trespassing signs stand between the public and the beaches they have every right to enjoy-if only they could get to them. 

    Just sayin

  • Gatewood Rob April 13, 2016 (10:11 pm)

    Dog park.  Can’t seem to fit one in that massive area to the north anywhere and Westcrest is a complete and dangerous mess.  Great view, fence it for dogs, water access, like Magnason (they’ll maybe then stay out of Lincoln Park’s water) and open so riff raff won’t have anywhere to hide (Lincoln Park).  Or, yeah, sell it and take the approx. 1M and put it into some upgrades in the parks we have (laughing as I type it).  The rich people can buy it as a buffer from the riff raff…

    • JanS April 14, 2016 (12:04 am)

      a dog park? seriously? Where would people park to use it…and..imagine dogs getting onto the beach….no, no, no…

      • KM April 14, 2016 (9:01 am)

        While dogs aren’t allowed on general public beaches in Seattle, there are already certain dog parks in the region that allow for dogs to be on the beach/ in the water within park boundaries.

    • mike April 14, 2016 (4:53 am)

       Yes, Dog Park!

      • QG April 17, 2016 (11:30 am)

        A dog park, really? First, we are huge dog people, have a rescue of our own. Second, there are so many logistical nightmares. First, how do you contain the dogs, build a wall? How will that look on the shore line? Dog aren’t allowed on the beaches, how will you contain them. This is such a small area, can you imagine the smell. 

        t

    • WSGirl April 14, 2016 (8:36 am)

      love this idea :) 

  • GT April 13, 2016 (10:16 pm)

    Is this a joke?  Unless the house has historical significance…..regardless the property should become public access.  How about a museum and maybe an actual restroom for human beings wanting to visit the beach.  All the Beach Drive residences are now owned by out of state people who couldn’t care less.

  • MzT April 14, 2016 (12:04 am)

    A NO PARKING dog park would be awesome!

  • KC April 14, 2016 (2:12 am)

    I think it’s best to let the residence of that neighborhood decide. I do like the idea of leaving it as is and having a walk to coffee shop. 

  • Anonymous Coward April 14, 2016 (5:08 am)

    Sell it!  It’s a great way for the county to get an extra $1,000,000+ from some 1%-er plus the annual property tax revenue.   

  • anonyme April 14, 2016 (7:00 am)

    I think JeffK had the best idea, with the house itself being converted to a restaurant/coffee shop.

    • Mike April 14, 2016 (8:02 pm)

      Yes, convert the house into a coffeeshop that services that neighborhood and the ferry travellers!  Make it homey like C&P Coffee off California Ave, and it will have no problem maintaining a clientele…  Plus, that coffee shop could use the space leading down to the water for seating & public access!

  • Gene April 14, 2016 (7:04 am)

    There are restrooms in Lincoln Park- not that far away & there’s already a museum- at Alki.  A dog park– there- so close to ferry traffic/ congestion? 

  • Community Member April 14, 2016 (8:16 am)

    JAT – you are mistaken.  The beaches in Seattle are owned out to mean LOW tide, not high tide. 

    • Alan April 14, 2016 (8:57 am)

      It is not a question of ownership but of the right of pedestrian passage over private tidelands. It is apparently not a simple question and not one that has been fully answered, as far as I can tell. I found a 32 page discussion of it, published by the Washington Law Review Association.

      https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace-law/bitstream/handle/1773.1/280/81washlrev813.pdf?sequence=1 

      It is a more interesting read than you might expect.

      • RF April 14, 2016 (11:31 am)

        According to my reading, public use of privately held tidewater constitutes a grey area in Washington State. If the tidewater is submerged, the only limitation on the public is that clams may not be removed. If the tidewater is exposed, the public may be charged with trespass, even below the ordinary high tide line. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the public is thus allowed to walk on privately held submerged tidewater below the ordinary high tide line. Yes?

        • Alan April 14, 2016 (12:56 pm)

          It is a very grey area, which is why the author spent 32 pages explaining their belief that the public has access to unsubmerged private tidelands. I do not think that wading on private tidelands is any different than walking on unsubmerged ones.  You can ALWAYS float above the tidelands, without question. So, you could swim over tidelands and potentially be accused of trespassing when you walked back the exact same route an hour later.

          Part of the argument made is based on the state constitution, which JAT had referred to:

          “The state of Washington asserts its ownership to the beds and
          shores of all navigable waters in the state up to and including the
          line of ordinary high tide, in waters where the tide ebbs and
          flows, and up to and including the line of ordinary high water
          within the banks of all navigable rivers and lakes . . . .”

          • Community Member April 14, 2016 (3:22 pm)

            Washington state asserted their ownership, and then they sold it.  They had to assert ownership in order to sell it off.

            Rights of public access are important, but typically they just apply to passage. I.E, walking on a private beach to retrieve a lost buoy that has washed ashore is certainly not trespassing, but camping, picnic-ing, having a bonfire, or having your dog chase sticks might be trespassing. 

            The article cited does not set law, but simply discusses some ambiguities, and includes, “Although the Supreme Court of Washington has yet to squarely
            address a right of public pedestrian passage over private tidelands, the
            Washington public trust doctrine logically encompasses such a right, at
            least where necessary to effectuate those water-based activities already
            judicially recognized as protected by the jus publicum.”    

            That “where necessary” clause is actually pretty restrictive, especially in a city where pedestrians can easily travel from the ferry to Lincoln Park using public sidewalks.

             

          • Alan April 14, 2016 (4:00 pm)

            I think I have been pretty clear that this is a grey area. I am not an attorney. The attorney that wrote this did point out the ambiguities of the law and that it would need to be decided in court, but their end belief is that you should be able to walk the beach. It doesn’t make it law and it doesn’t mean that you will not be cited for trespassing.

            If I had people doing anything more than walking across my beach (clamming, using it for their dog’s playground, etc.) then I would not be happy about it. I do think that some people spend too much energy trying to teach the world their perceived property rights when all the person is doing is taking a walk.

  • aRF April 14, 2016 (8:24 am)

    It is true that money could be made by selling it off. The city could make even more money by selling off parts of our other parks. The edges of Lincoln Park would bring in loads of revenue, both from the sale and annual property taxes. Of course we dont want that. We understand the public good that comes from parks. 

  • Trileigh April 14, 2016 (8:37 am)

    Turn it into a nature center and museum, with a little cafe and restrooms! I believe the nearest nature center to us is all the way over in Seward Park. This would be a great facility for kids and adults to learn about animals, plants, and geology in Lincoln Park and the rest of West Seattle.

    • sam-c April 14, 2016 (9:18 am)

      That’s a great idea

    • HelperMonkey April 14, 2016 (1:22 pm)

      I love the idea of a nature center with bathrooms, but putting a cafe in there would be disastrous. Where would a truck park to deliver foodstuffs? A little interactive learning center geared toward kids learning about Puget Sound is a fabulous idea, though – something similar to what they have in Depoe Bay, OR for the whale watchers. 

  • Craig April 14, 2016 (8:54 am)

    A Cove Park expansion might appear to come at a “no cost” to Parks,  but the opportunity cost is somewhere between 1 and 2 million dollars(purchased for 1 mill in 2008) if the City were to sell the property which could arguably be better spent.    

    Give or take $1,500,000 for a potential sale,  future tax revenue, and development/ maintenance  costs of site development should be weighed against  opportunities such as  desperately needed traffic upgrades , a  homeless crisis, underfunded schools, (especially the new preschool program.)

    If the money were to go to Aquisitions,  I would argue that the money might be invested in more underserved communities.  Southpark would greatly benefit from more riverfront public access.  The West Duwamish Greenbelt has  two parcels that breech the publicly owned  N/S continuity which could be purchased.   Meyer’s Way might be developed as a park to serve south Highland Park. 

    While expanding Cove Park may look like low cost improvement to the  “park rich” region,  I hope we might consider more equitable distribution of an asset that came from a prior million dollar purchase from our collective pockets. 

    Another point, while 

    • MC April 14, 2016 (9:39 am)

      Agree. The Fauntleroy area has  3 beach access points and over a mile of developed puget sound shoreline. A loss of 85,000 a year in lease payments to the city, 15,000$ in tax payments from destroyed single family home, development  and maintenance costs all for a 35 foot addition  to a 75 foot already existing shoreline street end park with small boat launch in place doesn’t add up to me. Handle other needs with that money, or invest in undeveloped shoreline street ends elsewhere.

      • S April 14, 2016 (12:30 pm)

        Disagree. That is peanuts from the perspective of the overall budget. The greater good that will come from this is well worth that small price. It’s a no brainier to turn this into a park. Perfect location.

        • Craig April 14, 2016 (9:34 pm)

          In my neighborhood we seem to fight tooth and claw for a small portion of what you are calling peanuts.  This is true for necessary improvements such as swank things like stoplights and existing trails maintenance within parks property.   I agree that having a coffee shop next to the ferries, and more public  beach access sounds wonderful.   I’d like to know what are all of the costs,  who is going to pay for it, and what are our options? 

  • KBear April 14, 2016 (9:09 am)

    Given the ferry traffic and lack of parking, it’s a terrible location for a dog park or any type of new business. A park expansion or return to residential use are the only things that make sense.

  • BADWOLF April 14, 2016 (9:16 am)

    TEAR IT DOWN!!!  WE WILL NEVER HAVE THIS CHANCE AGAIN!

    • Petra April 14, 2016 (9:44 am)

      Yes, thank you!

  • Craig April 14, 2016 (9:31 am)

    County dollars not City dollars… my mistake. 

    Looking forward to a public discussion.  

    There is certainly opportunity here. 

  • aRF April 14, 2016 (9:31 am)

    If it is purely a matter of maximizing public revenue to be spent elsewhere, the lot should be rezoned for mixed commercial/residential (a two or three level building), and leased or sold.

  • wetone April 14, 2016 (9:40 am)

    Needs to be sold and money used to fix pot holes or if money can be moved to parks, put into maintaining what we already have as Seattle seems to have hard time maintaining and funding what we have now.  I really question why city spent $950K in 2008  for the house in the first place ? awful expensive job shack. What’s property worth today ? the same ? Really don’t understand comments on needing more beach access for  launching kayaks and paddleboards ? there is Lincoln Park a couple hundred yards away that has parking, and beach access areas every couple miles along Beach Drive,  Alki ave. and Harbor ave. If people want a coffee shop or some other business, buy house from city and do so after you get it rezoned. But don’t spend more of my tax dollars to subsidize another money loosing city venture….  Would be interesting to see survey of people wanting shack to stay in public hands if they rent or own property in area……..

    • WSB April 14, 2016 (9:46 am)

      The COUNTY bought and owns the house. Not the city.

      • wetone April 14, 2016 (10:59 am)

        Excuse me,  ” King County”  either way it’s still Tax Payers that will be responsible for maintaining unless sold……… 

      • MC April 14, 2016 (12:15 pm)

        Does WSDOT also lease the street end from the city? To run the ferry? How do we find out what they might pay annually and how vacating the street end might affect them? Or not. 

    • chemist April 14, 2016 (11:30 am)

      It’s close enough to the ferry terminal to make me wonder if the state would ever need it as a staging area for ferry terminal construction…

      • S April 14, 2016 (12:38 pm)

        Good point. Would also make sense to keep this property in county hands as it may be useful if the ferry dock ever expands. There have been proposals to expand and improve the dock in the past that would benefit the greater good, but those proposals have been shot down by the people who live nearby. But with increasing population and increased focus on transportation and pedestrian safety, I would hope that such ferry dock improvements will eventually come.

        • mike April 15, 2016 (12:31 am)

          Excellent point, tear down the house and use the upper part for ferry worker parking, and the lower part for the Dogs  WOOF!

  • RF April 14, 2016 (11:37 am)

    Here’s a question for the community: is privately owned tidewater with public access taxed at the same rate as privately owned tidewater that has no public access?

  • Gina April 14, 2016 (1:33 pm)

    Tear the house so we all can have a better view of the endless fireworks shot off all summer all night long in the summer.

  • dhg April 14, 2016 (5:40 pm)

    Make money from it.  In my fantasy, the house is converted to a nightly rental.  It could be made available to the public for special events.  Host a dinner with friends and spend the night.  The City could probably clear $50k / yr after contracting with a private company for handling reservations and cleanup.  It would be unique to WS.

    • seaopgal April 14, 2016 (6:31 pm)

      That’s the first thing I thought of, too, DHG. Can think of all sorts of objections and I don’t know what the inside of the house is like, might be a wreck … but sure would be cool.

    • GNel April 17, 2016 (1:41 pm)

      That is a VERY good idea. 

  • BD April 14, 2016 (9:33 pm)

    So, the county paid $950,000 for office space, in a residential zoned area no less, which probably could have been done with a rented trailer on a rented parking lot or public right of way up the hill a bit? That seems like the scandal. 

  • JV April 21, 2016 (9:58 am)

    Always like more green space but parking is a problem. I say turn it in to a parking lot so more people can enjoy what is already there.

  • Mike Mahanay May 3, 2016 (8:00 am)

    A no brainer.

    Any time we can add to park land or open space we should do it, and adding to water views! It would be very sad to miss this opportunity. I can’t imagine anyone being opposed to this! I can’t imagine (and concerned) that the FCA would be opposed and not giving this 110% support.

Sorry, comment time is over.

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