West Seattle Blog... » 4755 Fauntleroy http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 27 Nov 2014 23:09:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 West Seattle development: Groundbreaking for The Whittaker http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-groundbreaking-ceremony-for-the-whittaker/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/west-seattle-development-groundbreaking-ceremony-for-the-whittaker/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 22:22:28 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=292033

(WSB video by Patrick Sand)
FIRST REPORT, 2:22 PM: With ice axes digging into dirt near the southwest corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska, ground has just been ceremonially broken for The Whittaker, ~400 apartments, ~600 parking spaces, and Whole Foods Market (the anchor, and lone announced, retail tenant). A two-year construction process now ensues; demolition and site clearing has just concluded, and excavation/shoring is expected to start in a few weeks. It’s been almost two years since we broke the news of an ‘early’ proposal for the site. We have the by-invitation ceremony on video and will add it, along with photos and more details, after our return to HQ.

ADDED 6:12 PM: We’ve substituted a slightly longer YouTube version of the actual “groundbreaking” video above, in place of the short Instagram clip (which you can still see here). And here’s our video of the speeches that preceded it:

Most of those on hand for the event, held near the northeast corner of the project site – just south of where the gas station used to be – were affiliated with members of the project team – residential developer Lennar Homes, retail developer Weingarten, Whole Foods, local communicators, general contractor Chinn Construction, whose owner Kevin Chinn was there:

(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand)
With him at left above is Josh Sutton from the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor). Sutton was on the community advisory group that worked with the city on the Triangle Plan a few years ago, as was West 5 restaurateur Dave Montoure of the West Seattle Chamber/Junction boards:

That’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals at right above with Montoure. Speaking on the Chamber’s behalf, its board chair Nancy Woodland (leaning to the left and smiling in photo below):

She mentioned the community’s strength and its many “opinions,” the only overt allusion to the controversy that beset the project for months, including former Mayor Mike McGinn’s instruction to SDOT in July 2013 to not approve the project’s “alley vacation” and a standing-room-only City Council hearing last March, followed by the council’s 6-3 approval vote in April, the last major hurdle the project had to clear.

That was three months after the development team had announced the project would be named for climbing legend and West Seattle native Jim Whittaker. He and wife Dianne Roberts were at today’s ceremony:

In his honor, mountaineering metaphors were plentiful. The groundbreaking was described as “base camp,” but with a long climb ahead – two years of construction, to result in this:

And even as today’s celebration continued, so did site-prep work on the south side of the site.

Development manager Kelley Kohout told WSB the excavation work will start from that side, and head north. The project is so big, two tower cranes will be required; he says they’ll arrive sometime in the first quarter of next year. It’s already been a month since the start of demolition/abatement.

As construction ramps up, Whole Foods will continue planning its store; VP of store development Tee Ayer promised the market will reflect the community’s spirit and personality, saying, “you will see West Seattle” in it. (Just a week ago, WF announced plans for another new Seattle store, on Capitol Hill.)

As for what else you’ll see in The Whittaker’s retail space – Weingarten executive Lance Sherwood told WSB today they have nothing to announce yet, but “lots of interest” and an expectation that they’ll “have no problem” leasing it all.

Our archive of coverage on this project is here, newest to oldest.

SIDE NOTE: The last ceremonial groundbreaking for a major development was in 2008, across the street at 3922 SW Alaska, then known as “Fauntleroy Place,” to be anchored by Whole Foods. After excavation, the project was stopped by legal and other problems, no fault of WF, which was just a planned tenant; terms of its lease, for store space to be available, never were fulfilled, which left the chain free to mull other WS possibilities – finally landing with this one. Meantime, after a foreclosure sale leading to an ownership change and name change to “Spruce,” that development re-started a year and a half ago and is close to completion, now with its entire commercial space to be taken up by an LA Fitness gym.

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West Seattle development: Permit issued for The Whittaker http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/west-seattle-development-permit-issued-for-the-whittaker/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/west-seattle-development-permit-issued-for-the-whittaker/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 01:56:21 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=284733

The city has issued the master-use permit for The Whittaker, the mixed-use megaproject at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW. The project team told us they got the news from the city this week, and the online files say the permit is officially dated today. According to correspondence in the same files, the project team has told the city it is eager to move forward so the deteriorating, vandalized old buildings on the site can be torn down, but has had to wait for that permit to be finalized, which has taken longer than they expected. The demolition permit is separate and is not shown as finalized yet, so you’re not going to see backhoes show up immediately, but the project team hopes some site work can start soon. The project will line Fauntleroy from Alaska to Edmunds, and Alaska from Fauntleroy to 40th, with two buildings holding about 370 apartments, a Whole Foods Market, and other retailers yet to be signed/announced. The project gained regional attention when former Mayor Mike McGinn told SDOT to reject developers’ request to buy a city-owned alley that’s on the site; the ultimate decision was up to the City Council, which approved the alley deal last April. Construction is expected to last about two years.

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Happening now: City Council approves The Whittaker’s alley-vacation petition, 6-3 http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/happening-now-city-council-moves-toward-expected-alley-vacation-vote-for-the-whittaker/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/happening-now-city-council-moves-toward-expected-alley-vacation-vote-for-the-whittaker/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 21:13:49 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=271104 (TOPLINE: The long-debated alley vacation is approved by the City Council in a 6-3 vote.)

We’re at City Hall this afternoon for the City Council meeting expected to bring a vote on the “alley vacation” for 4755 Fauntleroy Way, aka The Whittaker (or, the “Whole Foods” project). Five councilmembers voted in favor of it at the Transportation Committee‘s meeting almost two weeks ago.

The meeting begins with public comment on whatever’s on the agenda, not just this item; Deb Barker, a longtime opponent, is the first to comment on the alley vacation, urging the council to vote “no.” Next commenter is Elena Perez (above), coordinator of the group that has opposed the development for a year, Getting It Right for West Seattle. She says that after outreach done by the group, “Overwhelmingly, the conclusion is that this development is bad for our community” and calls the potential alley vacation “a land grab.”

First speaker in favor of the alley vacation is Sharonn Meeks (above). She says there’s a misconception – “the developer is going to pay” for the alley, not get it for free. She’s followed by Dave Montoure, who also is a supporter and says he has been to many meetings and hearings: “Density supports business, not just Fortune 500 businesses, (but also) small businesses like my own.”

2:25 PM: Now to the alley vacation item. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, one of three councilmembers who voted “no” at the Transportation Committee meeting, presents the “minority report” first. He says the main reason he’s opposing it is because of “the public-benefit tradeoff.” He says he doesn’t think it will meet the needs of pedestrian access. Next, the “majority report,” presented by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. He says it’s been vetted through “dozens of meetings” at community and city-department levels. After a brief bit of history about the alley/street-vacation process, he notes that the committee he chairs reviewed the project and determined that it meets the requirements laid out in the process, including public benefits such as green-street improvements on 40th, a crosswalk to the north, landscaping, a $25,000 contribution to the new city park on 40th, and a new bike lane on the west side of Fauntleroy. And Rasmussen reiterates that the developer would pay “full market value” for the alley land.

Next, Councilmember Nick Licata, who voted against it at the committee meeting, says he is still opposed because he believes it does not provide “a significant public benefit.” After him, Councilmember Sally Clark reiterates her support, and also says she’s glad to hear that West Seattle is forming a Land Use Committee (via the Southwest District Council – see our earlier coverage). She says she believes the project “is providing more than adequate public benefit” while acknowledging that the project might not be perfect, but it has gone through boards and committees and other layers of feedback and “sets of expectations.”

Rollcall vote: 6 yes, 3 no. The alley vacation petition is approved. Rasmussen offers closing words that the development will upgrade what is currently a “bleak” site. He also thanks everyone for public involvement in the extensive process. The “no” votes are Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata, and Kshama Sawant; the “yes” votes are Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, Jean Godden.

The council will be talking about parks funding after this meeting so we’ll be staying for that, as parks funding is a big issue for much of West Seattle.

TUESDAY MORNING NOTE: We’re working on a separate followup for later today, but a project spokesperson says a published report today of construction starting in July is NOT accurate. They continue to expect that work will begin “by year’s end.”

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As-it-happened: 4755 Fauntleroy alley vacation approved by City Council committee http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/happening-now-4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-returns-to-city-council-transportation-committee/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/happening-now-4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-returns-to-city-council-transportation-committee/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:35:55 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=269923 (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.

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4755 Fauntleroy alley vacation returns to council Transportation Committee tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/4755-fauntleroy-project-returns-to-council-transportation-committee-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/4755-fauntleroy-project-returns-to-council-transportation-committee-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 04:38:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=269859

Tomorrow morning at 9:30 am, the City Council’s Transportation Committee revisits the “alley vacation” request for 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, the mixed-use project now named The Whittaker. Four weeks have passed since March 11, when the committee held the required-by-law public hearing but decided to postpone a vote until some questions could be answered (WSB as-it-happened coverage here). While tomorrow’s meeting is not an official public hearing, it will begin with a public-comment session. Meantime, six West Seattleites sent City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, one more plea not to advance the alley vacation, and detailed concerns about the project and process. It is in essence their response to his response to those who sent him comments and concerns, as reported here on March 14th.


Dear Councilmember Rasmussen:

Thank you for the explanation of your analysis of the proposed development at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW in West Seattle. We appreciate the time you took to listen and respond to community inquiries about this proposal. We continue to be concerned about several aspects of this proposal presented during public testimony by the developer and others that appear to be in error. This letter is sent to ensure that the record is accurate and that our concerns are appropriately considered.

Triangle Plan – First, we want to make it clear, we are not opposed to redevelopment of this site within the applicable zoning code requirements. We also feel strongly about adherence to the Triangle Plan because this is a legacy decision that our community will live with for 50 to 75 years (at a minimum). The community, including residents, businesses owners, and other interested parties, dedicated significant time and effort to making the Triangle Plan the best guidance possible for the life of the planning area. Attached is an analysis of concerns we have with the proposed development’s compliance with the Triangle Plan in Exhibit A – Triangle Plan.

Public Benefit – We understand the alley vacation is not a “giving” of the public right-of-way to the property owner, but a market rate sale. We hold that public property is a limited resource that should not be sold or otherwise transferred out of public ownership without substantial public benefit being achieved. To that end, we sought, without success, a Community Benefit Agreement with the developer that would establish terms of the benefits accruing to the community from such transfer. We remain concerned that some of the benefits identified by the developer to justify the alley vacation are standard requirements under the Seattle Municipal Code and should not, therefore, be counted toward the benefit required for vacating public right-of-way. Please see the full discussion in Exhibit B – Public Benefit.

Community Outreach – Members of the community have been actively involved in the review of this project since first presented in 2012. We appreciate that the developer made presentations at meetings with the community. We are concerned that on Page 5 of the developers March 11, 2014 presentation to the Transportation Committee, many of the Community Outreach Meetings listed with a particular group actually involved only one or two members associated with that group. Further, the meetings were held in conjunction with members of other groups. The developer has by accident or design overstated their outreach to the West Seattle community. This is important because it may appear that a particular group or board has supported the project, when in reality that group or board never saw a presentation. Please see full discussion in Exhibit C – Community Outreach.

Traffic Impacts - We also are concerned about the lack of a more robust traffic analysis for the retail component. In May of 2013, we submitted to the Seattle Design Commission (SDC) the attached pictures and vehicle counts of actual delivery truck traffic patterns and conflicts associated with the Whole Foods located in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood. We also provided the SDC with a copy of the USDOT/WSDOT-sponsored study of truck traffic at Puget Sound grocery stores, which showed that even at conventional grocery stores, freight deliveries are much more frequent than project proponents assume. We ask that you look carefully at these highly relevant comparisons because they do not comport with the traffic analysis relied on by the Seattle Department of Transportation in making its recommendations to the City Council on this development. There is also additional analysis available from work done by Ross Tilghman, P.E, who is now a member of the Seattle Design Commission. Please see Exhibit D – Traffic Impacts.

Review Process – Much has been made of the project reviews before the Southwest Design Review Board (SWDRB) and the Seattle Design Commission. We attended all of the public meetings and we believe that these reviews were much more tentative than characterized in public testimony. The SWDRB was not unanimous in its final approval. The SDC conditionally approved the vacation, and had scheduled an administrative review of a key design condition prior to the alley vacation hearing. But that review was cancelled purportedly because the developers were not ready to provide updated plans. This is consistent with what happened to the public as this proposal moved forward, i.e., the chance for public review continually shifted, and our comment opportunities diminished. Please see Exhibit E – Review Process.

Finally, we believe the inaccuracies and insufficiencies in the public record are enough to ask the City Council to pause in its deliberations. Pretty drawings and clever naming does not change a poor development into a good one. If this developer has the staying power to do a development that provides the legacy and cornerstone project the West Seattle community is looking for, there is no need to rush this forward. We believe there are sufficient reasons to hit the pause button and make sure the record is clear and correct before you proceed.

Thank you for your consideration.


West Seattle Residents:
Deb Barker
Rene Commons
James Guenther
Elena Perez
Shawn Terjeson
Diane Rose Vincent

C: Seattle City Council
Mayor Ed Murray

Exhibits: Exhibit A – Triangle Plan
Exhibit B – Public Benefit
Exhibit C – Community Outreach
Exhibit D – Traffic Impacts
Exhibit E – Review Process

We don’t have all the attachments due to format compatibility problems but below are two:

Exhibit C – Community Outreach

Page 5 of the applicant’s March 11, 2014 presentation to the City Council’s Transportation Committee contains a list of Community Outreach Meetings beginning in September 2012, as evidence of the public process that the project went through. The list (copied below) references a specific group and related meeting dates.

At least three of these meetings are misrepresented by the developer.

While raising this issue may appear trivial, it points to a larger problem with the developers’ perception of their community outreach efforts. Meeting with one person is not the same as meeting with an entire board or organization, and it is dishonest to represent it as such. Meeting with the Chamber of Commerce does not meet the intent of broad community outreach. Taken as a whole, the applicant of the largest development project in West Seattle’s history did not conduct a true community outreach program and did not engage with the West Seattle public outside of Design Review Board meetings.

PUBLIC PROCESS (Page 5 of the March 11, 2014 developer presentation)

Community Outreach Meetings
Meeting Dates
Chaco Canyon Cafe
Fairmount Community Association
9/11/2012, 11/27/2012, 2/26/2013
Informal Community Stakeholder Design Group
11/27/2012, 1/24/2013, 2/26/2013
Masonic Temple owners
9/11/2012, 11/02/2012
Morgan Junction Community Association
11/27/2012, 2/26/2013
West Side Baby
11/27/2012, 2/26/2013
West Seattle Chamber of Commerce
9/11/2012, 11/27/2012, 12/10/2012, 2/26/2013
West Seattle Junction Association

7/30/2012, 7/31/2012, 8/14/2012, 8/30/2012, 9/05/2012, 9/13/2012, 10/16/2012, 11/27/2012, 12/10/2012, 2/26/2013
West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Association
9/11/2012, 11/27/2012, 12/10/2012, 1/24/2012, 2/26/2013


(1) Informal Community Stakeholder Design Group – The developer has inaccurately represented this group. At the first EDG meeting held on Thursday, September 27, 2012, twenty-five members of the public spoke about height bulk, scale, architectural character, Community Connection, mid block connection and triangle plan, street design, and other issues. The developer invited many of those speakers to attend three meetings held at Chaco Canyon Café. Two of the meetings included design parameter discussions of a project that was well beyond the preliminary design phase, while the third meeting was a Whole Foods presentation. Meeting attendees included persons who spoke as representatives of the West Seattle YMCA, West Side Baby, and the West Seattle Junction Association, as well as persons who represented themselves as residents and citizens.

(2) Morgan Junction Community Association – The developer has inaccurately stated that the Morgan Junction Community Association (sic) participated in public outreach meetings. West Seattle resident Deb Barker was invited to participate in Informal Community Stakeholder Design Group meetings, which she did based on her experience as a former member of the SW Design Review Board. Although Deb is the president of the Morgan Community Association (MoCA), she was not representing that organization in the stakeholder design group. The developer’s team requested time on MoCA meeting agendas to present their proposal. This request was honored for several months, with the team canceling before each meeting. To date, the developer has never met with the Morgan Community Association.

(3) West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Association – The developer has inaccurately stated that the West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Association (sic) has participated in public outreach meetings. West Seattle resident Rene Commons was invited to participate in Informal Community Stakeholder Design Group meetings, which she did as a resident of the Junction neighborhood and citizen. The defunct Junction Neighborhood Association (or JuNO) was dormant for several years, and was not relaunched as a community group until July 2013, with Ms. Commons as President. Although it is impossible to meet with a non-operational group, the developer has listed this group in their public outreach efforts. To date, the developer has never met with the Junction Neighborhood Association.

Exhibit D – Traffic Impacts

ü Truck Delivery/Pickup Traffic at Roosevelt Whole Foods, observations by Tracie Champion April 2013
ü Truck Trip Generation by Grocery Stores, a report prepared for TransNow and WSDOT, August 2010
ü Circulation comments by Tilghman Group Transportation Planning, dated May 13, 2013
ü Delivery and Loading Dock Management Plan – SW corner of Alaska Ave and Fauntleroy Mixed Use Development (Undated Draft – only page provided)

And here is the final section that we have:

Exhibit E – The Review Process

Much has been made of the 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW project reviews before the Southwest Design Review Board (SWDRB) and the Seattle Design Commission (SDC). We attended all of the public meetings and we believe that these reviews were much more tentative than characterized in public testimony. As detailed below, the “public process” has been degraded by insufficient comment opportunities, and the absence of shared information.

SW Design Review Board – The SW Design Review board conducted two Early Design Guidance (EDG) meetings and two Recommendation meetings for this project between September 27, 2012 and July 11, 2013.

· The SWDRB composition is five volunteers. Ongoing Board rotation during the review time-span meant that new Board members had to be brought up to speed during the meeting, wasting valuable time. Changing board membership also meant that the project was inconsistently evaluated.

· The largest project in West Seattle history was allotted 90 minutes of DRB meeting time, sharing the meeting docket with other development projects at each meeting.

· At every meeting, the applicant presented new information that had not been previously distributed to the Board in their packets, or made available to the public. This meant that the public had no time to evaluate new details or research new information before being asked for comments.

· Due to time constraints, individual public comments were limited to 1 – 2 minutes at every meeting. Any detailed design commentary delivered within these time constraints can be rendered incomprehensible or becomes a “shout out.”

· Despite these being design related meetings, specific design related commentary was allocated equal time as “I can’t wait for this store to open” comments. This devalues the time of design professionals who have relevant information to impart to the DRB.

· Although the SWDRB and the SDC meetings ran concurrently, SDC meeting minutes were not made available to SWDRB members, who instead had to rely on the applicant’s interpretation of the SDC meetings and associated commentary.

· The final SWDRB vote has been inaccurately stated as unanimous. It was actually a 3 to 1 vote for Recommendation.

Seattle Design Commission – The Seattle Design Commission conducted two Urban Design Merit meetings and two Public Benefit meetings for the alley vacation request between March 7 and June 20, 2013.

· The 10 member all-volunteer board conducts their meetings during the workday. The timing of these public meetings severely limits the ability of the public to attend as most citizenry are not able to take time off to attend daytime meetings – even if they worked downtown.

· At each SDC meeting, the applicant presented new information that had not been previously distributed to the Commission in their packets, or made available to the public. This meant that the public had no time to evaluate new details or research new information before being asked for comments.

· Despite the longer meeting length, public comments were still limited from 1 to 2 minutes. Any detailed design commentary delivered within these time constraints is rendered incomprehensible or becomes a “shout out.”

· The final Urban Design Merit vote was 5 to 3, with two members excused from the meeting. There were five conditions of approval from this vote.

· The final Public Benefit vote was 6 to 0, with one abstention and three members excused. There were four conditions and one recommendation resulting from this vote.

· Official published minutes of the final Public Benefit meeting contain inaccurate information, such as a monetary contribution of $45,000 ($20,000 too high), incorrect location and address information, and an incomplete listing of the public benefit package.

· Seattle Design Commission Public Benefit Condition #3 states “Provide drawings of the gateway element for administrative review when the design has been further developed per Commission’s recommendations. Despite the fact that the gateway is at a loud, busy intersection, it must be a well developed, prominent feature given its central location in the neighborhood.” The SDC had scheduled an administrative review of these key design details prior to the March 11, 2014 alley vacation hearing. That review was cancelled purportedly because the developers were not ready to provide updated plans. At this time, this key project component has not been fully vetted.

Again, tomorrow’s meeting is at 9:30 am in City Council chambers at City Hall downtown. Even if they do vote tomorrow, the committee doesn’t have final say on the alley-vacation proposal – the full Council does. We’ll be at City Hall for the meeting; if you can’t, you can watch live on Seattle Channel, on cable or online – it’s the first item on the agenda, with another major item afterward, the Bicycle Master Plan Update.

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WSB Q/A with Mayor Murray: #3 – About that ‘alley vacation’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/wsb-qa-with-mayor-murray-3-about-that-alley-vacation/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/wsb-qa-with-mayor-murray-3-about-that-alley-vacation/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 22:40:34 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=268704

Continuing coverage of on our one-on-one Q-and-A with Mayor Ed Murray, one topic at a time: Two weeks from today, the requested “alley vacation” for the 4755 Fauntleroy Way project – aka The Whittaker, and/or the Whole Foods project – goes back to the City Council Transportation Committee, which held a public hearing two weeks ago (WSB coverage here). Last summer, the mayor’s predecessor had told SDOT to recommend rejection of the request. After Mayor Murray took office, we asked for his comment on the situation, and his spokesperson had told us he wasn’t commenting. So we asked during our one-on-one interview Friday; here’s his reply:

The proposal to grant the project’s developers the opportunity to buy the alley land for not-yet-specified “fair market value” ultimately goes to the full City Council for a final vote, possibly as soon as April 14th, depending on what happens at the committee meeting April 8th.

Our next question for/answer from the mayor is also a development issue – his thoughts on the relatively new city rules allowing housing without off-street parking if it’s a certain distance from what’s considered frequent transit, though the city can’t guarantee the ongoing availability of said transit.


Question #1 – West Seattle Bridge traffic
Question #2 – SPD’s not-yet-activated surveillance cameras

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4755 Fauntleroy: Rasmussen’s response to ‘volume of correspondence’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-rasmussens-response-to-volume-of-correspondence/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-rasmussens-response-to-volume-of-correspondence/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 04:07:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=267725

(From project team’s presentation at last Tuesday’s hearing)
Following up on Tuesday’s City Council Transportation Committee hearing (WSB as-it-happened coverage here) on the requested “alley vacation” for 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, recently named The Whittaker, aka “the Whole Foods project” for the only tenant announced so far for the ~400-apartment, ~600-parking-space mixed-use building: The committee’s chair, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, has made public the e-mail he is sending to those who’ve contacted him with concerns. Read it here or below:

As noted both in Rasmussen’s e-mail and our Tuesday coverage linked above, the next official step is the April 8th committee meeting. It will also have a public-comment period, but since it’s not the formal public hearing on the proposal, it won’t be as long as the hour last Tuesday. Along with Rasmussen, the committee includes vice chair Mike O’Brien and member Jean Godden. The final vote on the proposal would be up to the full council.

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As-it-happened: 4755 Fauntleroy alley-vacation hearing, standing room only; vote delayed to April 8th http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-standing-room-only-in-city-council-chambers/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-standing-room-only-in-city-council-chambers/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 16:34:42 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=267307 (UPDATED 2:58 PM with archived meeting video; POST-HEARING TOPLINE: No committee vote until April 8th)

9:34 AM: We’re at City Hall for the alley-vacation hearing (process explained here, same as ‘street’ vacation) for 4755 Fauntleroy before the City Council’s Transportation Committee. Standing room only. Supporters are wearing purple stickers with slogans; opponents are wearing yellow stickers with slogans (photos added):

Live coverage ahead – you also can watch the stream via Seattle Channel (click “play”) in the window below (UPDATED 2:59 PM – THIS IS NOW THE ARCHIVED VIDEO OF THE MEETING):

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has opened the discussion by playing a message on his voice mail – he got the robocall that project opponents sent around West Seattle last night. “It told me to call Tom,” he said, drawing laughter.

9:39 AM: First to speak, project opponent Deb Barker, who was the voice of the aforementioned robocall.

She is a community organization leader and former Design Review Board member. She says the public benefits in the project package are not enough. She talks about the setbacks and says the alley vacation overall will “waste public land for profit.”

Next, project supporter Sharonn Meeks, also a community-organization leader. She notes she was “involved in this project way before it began” – that included being on the Triangle Planning Group. She calls the site “a blighted grayfield.” She says scrapping these proposal would cost time and “an excellent developer.”


Next, opponent Steve Williamson. He points out that the SDOT report on the vacation does not endorse the public-benefit proposal. He says there was a lack of community input in the street-vacation review process, and says the plan is unsafe. He also mentions income inequality.

Both sides are hauling out their highest-profile speakers first.

Jim Whittaker, after whom the building was recently named, is now speaking for the support side, saying “this is a magical place … I would like to see people live here and enjoy the natural world … this building will represent a lot of nature. … Let’s get out of base camp and climb this mountain.” Applause follows.

For the opponents, Dr. Sharon Sutton, who was commissioned to design two alternative designs for the site. (See them in this WSB report.) She also calls attention to the SDOT public-benefit non-endorsement and says that her favorite “public benefit” is a “beautifully designed building.” And she says a pedestrian overlay on Alaska would be a “public benefit” as well. She also is followed by some applause.

Next is the first speaker we don’t recognize; a project supporter and business owner whose name is Clark and he says he used to service the old Huling lot on the site, and also has worked with Whole Foods. He says the store will “foster growth in our communities.”

On the opponent side, Claudia Newman, a land-use lawyer. (Each speaker has up to two minutes.) She says the SDOT recommendation is “missing” some things. First she mentions the midblock connector and says that she has submitted a transportation study showing it would not be safe. She also says the midblock connector in the neighborhood plan was envisioned as for pedestrians, not for (motorized) vehicles too.

Pro: Denise from Whole Foods reads a statement she says is from an “organic farmer from Monroe” who supplies 18 WF markets in the region. She says the farmer also has been involved with neighborhood farmers’ markets that have found that Whole Foods did not impact those markets.

Anti: Natasha, who is reading a statement from a friend she says is a West Seattle resident named Ames, a “trade chef and cheesemonger at Metropolitan Market” who could not be present because he was hit by a car in The Junction about two weeks ago. The statement says that he had been working in the community to raise concern about the project, and he does not want the city to allow the developer to use public land. “This plan takes an already pedestrian-unfriendly plan and makes it worse.”

Pro: A-P Hurd., with the state’s commercial real-estate association, and she is here to speak for a “predictable … alley-vacation process.” The developer is providing $2.4 million in public benefits and open space, she says. She says if this alley vacation is judged by the tenant – Whole Foods – then we’ll have a city of buildings with approved tenant lists.

Anti: Tracie Champion, a West Seattleite “since the day I was born.” She says she’s been in the grocery building for 15 years and went to the Roosevelt Whole Foods to watch traffic. She says the project team’s numbers on deliveries are not accurate and if that’s the case, “what else are they misleading us on?”

Pro: Gordon McHenry, Jr., CEO of Solid Ground, which he says has a longrunning partnership with Whole Foods. It is a group that helps low-income people with food and housing. He says Whole Foods is an exemplary committee partner and he hopes the City Council will support its growth.

Anti: Jim Guenther, a West Seattle resident who says he is a former King County public-works director and is speaking as a private citizen and member of Getting It Right for West Seattle. He voices concern about the midblock connector. And he points out that the project is on Fauntleroy, a major thoroughfare to the ferry dock.

Pro: Susan Livingston, who also is affiliated with Whole Foods. She brought two e-mails she says are among “hundreds” WF has received regarding the alley vacation. The first voices support; the second one notes that the controversy “is stirred up by a group posing as concerned citizens but are not concerned citizens, but rather union representatives.”

Anti: Shawn Terjeson, who distributes visuals and asks that they be given to the council. He says he got drawn into the process by Chas Redmond, to look at the Triangle framework. “One of the most important points to them was a pedestrian corridor to connect the Triangle to the Junction.” He notes that West Seattle will have 300 percent of the density agreed to in the comprehensive plan. “We are going to have a VERY urban neighborhood.” He says the Alaska side of the project will include “a dead zone for pedestrians … please don’t give our alley away.”

Pro: Dave Montoure, business owner (and former West Seattle Chamber of Commerce chair). He says he was the only person who spoke the last time he came to an alley vacation hearing. “This process has been very politicized … it hurts me to see how this whole process has been hijacked by politics. Let’s put the noise and distraction behind us …” He points out that 80 percent of the project is housing, which the city needs. The tenants will change. He points out that his business (West 5) is in a building that has had many changes in its almost 90 years.

Anti: Sandra Adams. She reads a letter from T. Frick McNamara, local business owner (also Design Review Board member and landscape architect). The letter says McNamara voted against approving the project after she joined the board before its final review, though it makes clear she is not writing in that context. She says she supports a vibrant gateway, and a connector that is pedestrian-focused.

Pro: Nancy Woodland, chair of the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, which is officially supporting it. “This project will increase the economic vitality of our area.” She notes she has participated in the meetings leading to this point and has spoken to developers “and asked very hard questions … adjustments have been made along the way.” She says she has often walked near the alley in question, including with kids in strollers, and “it’s a blight.” And she says “there’s a 65-foot building going up in my own back yard, so I’m very aware of how this affects our community.”

Anti: Robbie, who says he has brought a letter from 20 organizations opposing the alley vacation, including some working on poverty. “To me, this is about where the council is going to stand … on income inequality. They’re very clear that Whole Foods is going in, to compete against 8 other markets in the community.” He says Whole Foods’ leader is against health care, and that it does not treat workers well. He says the alley vacation would put private profit over public good.

Pro: Tracy Cilona, owner of Twilight Gallery in The Junction. She says that as a business owner it’s important to have a thriving, walkable community, and she looks forward to welcoming new residents. She says mixed-use development will benefit her as a resident and a businessperson. She believes the plans are pedestrian-friendly. “The Whittaker is what West Seattle needs, and I ask you to support it and approve it.”

10:20 AM: Anti, Patrick Keating, West Seattle resident. “The impact on traffic that this development is going to create has not been studied enough. It will have a huge impact on public transportation … bus stops will need to be removed and redone.” He says it will make crossing the street to the RapidRide stops difficult. He says something needs to go there, and this should be reviewed.

Rasmussen says there are about eight more minutes in the comment period.

Pro: Tracy Dart.

“Living in West Seattle, I’ve seen many changes over 40 years.” She says that she believes in supporting developers who will support small businesses, and she believes this will – she is a small business owner herself. “I’m willing to ‘get it right for West Seattle,’ I’m not willing to ‘get it right’ for a union.”

Anti: Transit Riders Union rep Katie. They are not opposed to development, but they are opposed to contractors, developers, etc. who stand to profit. Too much Seattle development creates businesses that don’t pay a living wage, and too much of the housing development creates not-affordable housing, she says.

(First TV sighting at 10:24 am)

Pro: Martin Monk from the Masonic Lodge neighboring the project site. “We are living on a block that looks horrible, hideous … something has to be done. Is this a great design? I don’t know but progress has to happen. We love our community and give back to our community and hope to stay there for generations beyond.)

Anti: Pauline from the Transit Riders Union says “I saw this happen in Ballard a generation ago, where blocks of houses were transformed into apartments and suddenly there was noplace for anybody to park, and the traffic got really bad, and someone finally said ‘Whoa, maybe we need to rethink this’.” She says that West Seattle’s traffic grid has trouble. And she ends with a plug for Proposition 1.

Pro: Chris Matsumoto who says he is from the Experimental Education Unit at the UW, “and Whole Foods has been a community partner. … I came here today because Whole Foods has been … a fantastic partner.”

Anti: David Parsons, “here to urge a no vote on the Weingarten development”; he says he is a union member and a concerned citizen “and it is possible to be both.” (Laughter.) He is a West Seattleite and says he and his partner frequent the Alaska Junction and are bewildered at the possibility of yet another food store when there are so many choices.

Pro: Joe Rogoff, regional Whole Foods president. “We have wanted to be in West Seattle for a long time – we had a site there years ago, as you know, the developer could not finalize it … there’s been a lot said about WF Market over the past year and much of it is false.”

He says first, you shouldn’t judge a project on the basis of its tenant. “I believe in the highest wages possible for our team members … Our wages and benefits are now public record. We start at $11/hour, higher than anyone except PCC. We cap nonmanagement wages at $29.50 … our average wage for everybody nonmanagement is over $17 an hour .. We provide great benefits because our team members are responsible for our success …” He says they will create great jobs in West Seattle and denying this would deny that.”

Applause ends the public speaking period. Now the “Stand Up America” rep (Zimmerman), who has been sitting next to your editor here asking questions about what this hearing’s about, stands up and demands the right for him and everybody else to speak. Rasmussen says that he needs to sit down and be quiet. It appears he is leaving.

10:35 AM: Now, there are department presentations about the project. This is the proscribed process, Rasmussen says. Some from the audience are leaving.

Rasmussen points out that other councilmembers are here too, not just the ones on the committee.

First person to speak is Beverly Barnett, SDOT’s street-vacation point person.

She talks about the review process and what SDOT looks at. (She attended a Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting and was part of an excellent primer about the process – we’ll link it shortly.) She was asked whether part of the review is whether the city needs it any more. Yes, she said, and she noted that in this case, it’s not just a vacation of the alley, but its function would be somewhat replaced by the midblock connector.

Barnett says that the developers worked in the community to talk about the project in 2012. Then she goes through the process such as Design Review (four meetings, all covered here, starting in summer 2012; the alley-vacation petition was introduced in February 2013, and SDOT held two workshops looking at the function of the midblock connector).

From the Department of Planning and Development are Susan McLain and Bruce Rips. McLain, a West Seattleite, was the point person for the Triangle Plan process a few years ago. She notes that this block was part of that process, especially in 2010-2011. The process involved 35 community meetings, mailings, and more, she says. (Here’s a WSB report from 2011, when the resulting zoning changes were officially proposed.)

10:48 AM: Rips, who was the planner on this project, speaks now. He notes the four Design Review Board meetings (last one in July 2013), all of which were open to public comment, and goes through that process. Rasmussen notes that the Design Review Boards are made up of volunteers from the community. Rips says the SW DRB voted unanimously in favor of the massing and design.

Andy Rasmussen (no relation to Tom), who is the landscape architect on the project, is now presenting the “public benefit” package that the Design Commission had to review and approve (the latter was done with conditions) as part of the vacation process. Here is what he is showing (as published on WSB last week, when it was first made public) – The Whittaker’s presentation – see it here or via the Scribd viewer below:

11 AM: Councilmember Mike O’Brien asks if the below-ground parking garage (600 spaces) will be accessible from both entries. Andy Rasmussen says yes. O’Brien says he’s concerned about pedestrian conflicts and he thinks more of the grocery store traffic should use the south end, not the entry by the midblock connector. AR says that they used the Triangle Planning Urban Design Framework’s specific recommendations for the block and “all are incorporated” – from the gateway aspect of Fauntleroy/Alaska to “green street” features elsewhere. He now shows what they would do if they had to build without an alley vacation – 85′ height is allowed, though the current proposal is 70′; existing alley is 20′ wide and its existence would mean less underground parking.

O’Brien asks, could you do a grocery store along Fauntleroy instead of Alaska? “Not really. It’s a matter of depth, and better circulation,” is the reply. Next, A. Rasmussen shows a slide with a list of all the public meetings. (The gallery is now only about half full.) He says they also have had “numerous meetings” with city departments since the public process, a two-year process overall “culminating in today’s meeting.” He says the alley and the street grid haven’t been connected for years, and the project will connect it.

The project is being set back six feet from Fauntleroy so a bike lane can be built, as recommended in the Triangle plan, A. Rasmussen adds (this was brought up in some of the public meetings). And he mentions the new signalized pedestrian crosswalk planned on Alaska as part of this, from The Whittaker to Spruce (formerly “The Hole”). T. Rasmussen asks about parking along Fauntleroy. Answer: There’s street parking on all sides except Alaska. A. Rasmussen brings up the Green Boulevard project that’s in the works for the area, which will include more streetside greenery (T. Rasmussen is actually the main proponent of that).

Note: No new elements are being introduced here – we have reported on them multiple times before – but you can see them in the slide deck embedded above, including streetside “plazas,” how parking/vehicles will work, the “gateway” corner design, green stormwater infrastructure (rain gardens) on the 40th SW side, and art, for a “dynamic and interesting streetscape, unlike anything in West Seattle,” A. Rasmussen says. He continues to present renderings from the presentation shown above, including the pedestrian path along the midblock connector.

Councilmember Rasmussen says it’s time now to get to the Seattle Design Commission‘s part of the discussion; director Michael Jenkins is here to explain. He explains that the SDC had to review Urban Design Merit and Public Benefit, and that each of those aspects got two meetings each.

Here is the slide deck for the presentation that Jenkins is giving (published on our site last week) – see it here or via the Scribd viewer below:

11:29 AM: Jenkins shows how the plan evolved between meetings of the Design Commission, which did not review the entire project – just the “urban design merit” and “public benefit” aspects, as part of the alley-vacation process. (Projects without street and alley vacations do not go to the SDC, which meets at City Hall.) He explains that after the SDC’s unanimous recommendation of approval for the public benefits last June, there are some elements it asked to come back for review, which he said is not unusual for complicated projects.

11:33 AM: Luke Korpi from SDOT’s street-use division speaks now, and points again to the list of meetings (see it in The Whittaker’s slide deck) that have been held about this. “We believe the project does in fact meet the intent of the West Seattle Triangle plan and the city’s overall goals for 40th SW,” Korpi says. He explains why the city traffic engineer feels a marked crosswalk isn’t needed by the midblock connector – including, since 40th is not an arterial, it’s legal for pedestrians to cross at any place they want, he says. It is a “fairly wide street as non-arterial streets go” – 35 feet – he points out, and does note that the Triangle Plan suggested a crosswalk. But 40th will be narrower under this plan, he says. And he observes that though the decision right now is “not to mark” the crosswalk, that could be changed at any time in the future.

He says SDOT believes that the plan for traffic to be ‘dispersed’ around the project is a good “traffic operations” plan for the site, and will take some pressure off Fauntleroy, where as noted earlier there will be a bike lane. Korpi next mentions the crossing to be added at the west corner and the southbound bicycle lane along the project’s east side. He says the design seems to “meet the needs of internal circulation … through an analysis of very specific maneuvering patterns, turning movements the vehicles will take, but it has not been overdesigned for that purpose.”

Councilmember Jean Godden asks about the number of trucks, saying various numbers have been mentioned. Korpi says they believe 30 to 40 daily, from small trucks to semis with trailers (two of the latter are expected daily).

Next, Councilmember Kshama Sawant had asked about the public-benefit list, and a page from the deck “public-benefit matrix” – previously shown at Design Commission meetings – is up on the screen.

(Councilmember Sawant, with CM Sally Clark in background)
Sawant mentions that part of a city memo mentions that this alley vacation has brought up issues that haven’t been brought into the process before – she reads from it (11:49 am, if you want to go back and watch the video later – we will embed the clip when it is turned around, after this is over.) SDOT’s Barnett says this was just recognition of the fact that issues that have not previously been part of the process, have been raised with this one. Sawant says that the fact the issues aren’t part of the process now doesn’t mean they can’t be brought into it. She mentions the proliferation of grocery stores in the area and the matter of union vs. non-union. Rasmussen finally interrupts her and says this is a time for “grilling” city department reps and does she want to do that.

Why did SDOT not recommend approval of the public benefit? Barnett was asked by O’Brien. She says that “historically when there’s been a lot of controversy … we’ve forwarded more of an analysis to help you reach a conclusion.” Barnett said they could reach a conclusion that the midblock connector was safe and would function safely and appropriately; the policy issues from the land-use impacts, “in looking at the regulatory experts … they find this largely complies.” Re: public benefits, she says this chart is “similar to what the City Council has supported on other projects.”

11:59 AM: Rasmussen says he is suggesting a conceptual approval – if they meet these requirements, they can get their building permits, move ahead, and come back years later for final vacation approval. He says he believes there’s been an “extremely rigorous review of this project” regarding whether it meets neighborhood guidelines. He points to the Triangle Plan map of this block, “long before … this project … and what we now have before us is a project that mirrors this vision,” with one difference, the midblock crossing being for vehicles as well as pedestrians.

He also says it’s important to honor the integrity of the system of how these projects are reviewed and he believes there are significant public benefits that have been described, “meets the vision of the community …. (and is) an incredible enhancement for the neighborhood. … These public benefits are consistent to what we required for the project across the street, which at the time was proposed to be a Whole Foods project, and nobody protested.” But, “we do not make a decision about an alley vacation based on who a tenant will be.”

He continues, “it’s also interesting to those interested in traffic and congestion and more people coming to West Seattle .. there is less residential proposed for this than could be built without the vacation.” As for the gateway feature (Fauntleroy/Alaska), he supports that it be subject to further review by the Southwest Design Review Board, “let’s take this back to them one more time so that people who objected to it … can say one more time what they would like to see.”

12:06 PM: Other councilmembers’ turn – Jean Godden says having a vote the same day as the public hearing “seems to me to be a little rushed – I would feel more comfortable in waiting one more opportunity of the Transportation Committee, for a vote on the conceptual design.” Rasmussen says they usually DO vote the same day as the public hearing.

Councilmember Tim Burgess says he believes there’s usually NOT a public hearing and vote on the same day. Rasmussen says, OK, what do councilmembers want to do? Sally Bagshaw says she wants to know what information Godden wants that she doesn’t have now. Burgess says he supports proceeding – “this has been going on since 2012.” He says the issue of bringing other issues into the process, he supports looking at that, but doesn’t support changing the rules for this project that’s been under way.

Councilmember Sawant says she doesn’t support rushing into it and thinks it’s exactly time to innovate and have a thorough discussion about whether the public benefits guidelines should expand. “This is not an isolated (case),” she adds.

They’re still discussing what the general processes are for voting on street vacations. Councilmember Rasmussen proposes suspending the rules and voting today for conceptual approval. Bagshaw seconds suspending the rules. O’Brien says he’s against suspending the rules because he wants more information. Rasmussen says he feels like he has all the information. Burgess then suggests, what if we take committee action today and delay the full council consideration (which otherwise would be as early as next week)? He adds, “I’m sure that during that time both sides will continue their advocacy.” Godden says, “That means more phone calls saying to call Tom.” Rasmussen says, “Well, you’re requesting the delay, Councilmember …” O’Brien says the information he still needs involves the width of 40th SW among other things, and how will he get that information? Discussion ensues regarding whether that could be presented to him directly, or at another public meeting.

Clark says she wants advocates on both sides to know she is “not hearing a fatal flaw” regarding the vacation, but does have some questions she’d like to have answered.

BOTTOM LINE: It will return to the committee on April 8th – no vote today. That will not be a formal public hearing but there will be public comment taken, on that and whatever else is on the agenda.

ADDED 1:34 PM: Regarding how “conceptual approval/build project/final vacation approval years later” would work – we talked with Councilmember Rasmussen afterward. A few weeks ago, we noticed the Admiral Safeway alley vacation on a council agenda for final approval; since the project has been complete for more than two years, we were a little puzzled, but got sidetracked before asking about it. Rasmussen says that’s exactly what that was – the council conceptually approved the alley vacation, with conditions, and once they were fulfilled, it came back for one last vote finalizing the sale of the alley property on that site.

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4755 Fauntleroy alley-vacation showdown at City Hall tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-showdown-at-city-hall-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation-showdown-at-city-hall-tomorrow/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 00:48:08 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=266652

(For perspective – top of graphic is east, Fauntleroy Way frontage; ‘not a part’ is the Masonic Hall site)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Phones have been ringing, mailboxes have been jumping. Few political-candidate campaigns have been as intense as the campaigning going on in West Seattle in advance of a City Council committee hearing tomorrow.

And it’s all over a bit of bureaucracy that seldom gets much notice – an “alley vacation” (a process explained here). When a private property owner/developer asks the city to “vacate” a part of a publicly owned alley or street, City Council approval is required, and if it’s given, the property owner/developer has to pay the city fair-market value for the land involved. Before the project gets that far, it also has to show “public benefits” that will be part of the project.

(Recent West Seattle projects for which alley vacations were approved include Spruce, the former “Hole”; Admiral Safeway; the Equity Residential project at California/Alaska/42nd; and Capco Plaza at 42nd/Alaska/41st.)

Tomorrow morning, the City Council’s Transportation Committee – chaired by West Seattleite Tom Rasmussen – will consider the alley-vacation request for 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, recently named The Whittaker, a proposal for ~370 apartments, ~600 parking spaces, and a Whole Foods Market (in addition to other TBA retail). It’s asking to buy part of the alley on its site, while also dedicating space to a “midblock connector” that the city calls in effect a “private alley.” The application was filed in February of last year (here’s the story we published then).

The plan for the 4755 Fauntleroy project to include non-union Whole Foods has drawn intense concern from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, first voiced at the project’s first Design Review in September 2012 (WSB coverage here), even before WF had been announced as the anchor tenant. West Seattle’s other supermarkets, with the exception of Trader Joe’s – kitty-corner from The Whittaker’s site – are unionized.

The opposition is culminating in a telephone campaign; WSB commenters reported getting calls from “live” people last week, and then this afternoon, we’ve received multiple reports of robocalls that included an option for those receiving the call to hit a button and be taken to Councilmember Rasmussen’s voice mail.

Project backers have been rallying support too, including a postcard campaign. And both sides have been meeting privately with public officials – including City Council members and Mayor Ed Murray – as tomorrow’s hearing nears. And we have confirmed that Whole Foods itself has had a phone campaign going (as noted by yet another WSB commenter) to sample West Seattleites’ opinions about the company.

This alley-vacation proposal became a citywide flashpoint last July, when then-Mayor Mike McGinn sent then-SDOT director Peter Hahn this memo saying his department should reject it:

No one could remember a mayor jumping into an alley-vacation issue before.

(We have asked for McGinn’s successor, Mayor Ed Murray, to share his position on the alley vacation; to date, he has declined to comment publicly.

As reported here last week, SDOT’s report on the proposal is out – without a clear topline recommending approval or denial. Its bottom line says that if the council chooses to approve the alley vacation, it should be done with certain conditions. Here’s that full memo:

(The table/attachment referenced in the document is here.)

The project itself first came to light in summer 2012 – here’s our first report, from July of that year; two months later, as the project’s first Design Review date was set, we reported that the developers were multi-state firms Lennar and Weingarten.

Before this project was proposed, much of the site had long been all but fallow; the former Huling (and briefly Gee) automotive property that fronts Fauntleroy has been vacant for six and a half years (except for West Seattle Produce‘s tenure on the site until it moved across the street to 4722 Fauntleroy). The owners of Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home sold their part of the site to the developers and moved to a new location on 35th SW six months ago. The corner Shell station closed after the one kitty-corner to it reopened.

In November of 2012, Whole Foods announced it would be the project’s “anchor tenant.” Many noted some irony, considering that WF originally had been slated for the development site across SW Alaska, from which it pulled out in 2010, two years after the project stalled, three years before it revived (now minus any supermarket; the development, Spruce, will consist of an LA Fitness health club plus apartments).

The project went through four sessions each before the Southwest Design Review Board (meeting in West Seattle) and Seattle Design Commission (meeting downtown), all of which were covered here.

In a preview of what was its fourth and final review before the Southwest Design Review Board last July, we first mentioned the union-backed Getting It Right for West Seattle campaign. Less than a week later, Mayor McGinn’s directive to SDOT emerged. A week after that, the Getting It Right campaign e-mailed Councilmember Rasmussen, asking him, as chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, to support the mayor’s directive, and shared what they had sent:

"Getting It Right for West Seattle" letter to Councilmember Rasmussen

It has taken until now, however, for the review to get to Rasmussen’s committee. “Getting It Right” has kept up the pressure, with an advertising campaign, urging community letter-writing, and commissioning alternative designs for how the project’s street level might appear. We covered the presentation of those designs four months ago – see them in this November WSB story.

More recently, they created animation showing traffic flows past the development site (the :30 of animation begins at :42 into the clip):

Via Twitter, they also sent us this five-page document described as “the transportation study used for the video”:

The project team’s response, after viewing the video last week:

Our project completed a thorough traffic analysis by professional traffic engineers to determine the impact of the project on the adjacent arterials. Our professional analysis was included in numerous city approval stages and accepted by Seattle’s Department of Transportation. We firmly believe this project constitutes smart development by providing 400 permanent jobs in the Junction and putting density at the intersection of two major arterials with direct access to mass transit.

A significant amount of technical analyses were prepared for this project and have been reviewed and approved by SDOT and DPD. This included multiple traffic studies that documented the anticipated impacts to the surrounding intersections from both general purpose vehicles and truck traffic. The latest traffic study submitted and approved by DPD/SDOT included the results of a multi-store loading dock study to validate the assumptions for this site. In addition, a significant effort was undertaken by the project team in evaluating the turning templates and patterns for the large delivery trucks. It is important to note, that while the site expects 30 – 40 deliveries a day, only two to three of those would be the larger trucks.

The project team, working on behalf of the site’s developers, recently sent postcards to residents in the nearby area; one of those residents shared a photo of what she had received:

The back of the postcards point in turn to this website, which also advocates contacting the City Council regarding the alley vacation – only, in their case, with messages of support.

While we haven’t seen open acrimony, the campaign has found longtime West Seattle community advocates on opposite sides – some for, some against. Same with businesses. It will all come to a head tomorrow, when the council’s Transportation Committee holds a public hearing during its 9:30 am meeting in council chambers at City Hall; members might also vote, or could decide to delay action. Here’s the agenda, which includes the item, broken out this way:

Petition of West Seattle Project X, LLC to vacate a portion of the alley in Block 3, Norris Addition to West Seattle in the West Seattle Junction Hub Urban Village.


Presenters: Beverly Barnett and Luke Korpi, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT); Susan McLain, Bruce Rips, and John Shaw, Department of Planning and Development (DPD); Michael Jenkins, Seattle Design Commission; Andy Rasmussen, Weisman Design Group; Jack McCullough, McCullough Hill Leary

Beverly Barnett: overview of the presentation and the decision before the committee; what will be covered; will describe SDOT role and their review; major dates in the review process. (5 minutes)

Public Hearing (60 minutes)

DPD background: Bruce Rips and Susan McLain describe the neighborhood plan and the Design Review Board process (15 minutes)

Project overview: Andy Rasmussen from the project team will present the presentation slides for the project. (15 minutes)

Design Commission process: Michael Jenkins describes the review and project changes. (10 minutes)

SDOT review: Luke Korpi and John Shaw to address traffic safety and function. Beverly Barnett will address issues identified during the review and how those issues were resolved, and policy questions. (15 minutes)

Council questions (20 minutes)

The actual action item is here.

If you are not going, you can watch the meeting live via Seattle Channel, online or Cable Channel 21. We also will be there reporting live.

What happens next depends on what happens tomorrow. Final decisions on an alley or street vacation would be through a vote of the full Council.

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‘Alley vacation’ for The Whittaker? Preview what City Councilmembers will see at Tuesday’s public hearing http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/alley-vacation-for-the-whittaker-preview-what-city-councilmembers-will-see-at-tuesdays-public-hearing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/alley-vacation-for-the-whittaker-preview-what-city-councilmembers-will-see-at-tuesdays-public-hearing/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 20:31:50 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=266888 As we’ve been reporting for a month, next Tuesday is the official City Council Transportation Committee public hearing on the “alley vacation” request by the developers of The Whittaker, the 370-apartment, 600-parking-space project at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, with Whole Foods Market the only announced tenant so far. Two days ago, we showed you the SDOT memo sent to the committee by the staff that’s been reviewing the request for months. Now, the committee meeting’s agenda is out, and it includes other documents:

*Slide deck explaining the Seattle Design Commission‘s four reviews of the project before it voted last June to approve the “public benefits” that are required for alley/street vacations – see it here or via the Scribd viewer below:

*The Whittaker’s presentation – see it here or via the Scribd viewer below:

Again, the SDOT memo and an attachment were featured in this WSB story on Tuesday (and are also linked in the meeting agenda). Toward the end of that story, we noted we were reading the 22-page memo so we could post excerpts for those who didn’t want to go through the whole thing. We never got to add them so we’re doing so now, after the jump:

From the SDOT memo:

*6,597 square feet in the alley to be sold to the developer if City Council approves

*Project is 70 feet high despite 85′ allowed by zoning

*62,750 retail space, 370 apartments, garage for 598 vehicles, 102 bicycles

*Parking for 44 more bikes at street level

*1st step in vacation review is to circulate it to city agencies

–met with Seattle Public Utilities on drainage issues

–met with City Light regarding undergrounding

–meetings with SDOT regarding midblock connector

4 reviews by Southwest Design Review Board, 4 by Seattle Design Commission

“This project is unusual because while a portion of the alley is being vacated, the traditional alley functions will continue to be provided withthe proposed mid-block connector. … The existing public alley provides three points of entry to the block, and after the vacation the midblock connector and the existing public alley will provide three points of access to the block.” …

The midblock connector, as revised, can be supported by SDOT provided that the following elements are included as conditions of the vacation and provided for in the SIP and MUP. The mid-block connector shall include the following elements:

*The total width varies from 44 feet in width to 50 feet in width.
*Two-way vehicle traffic is accommodated
*The drive lane for vehicles is 20 to 25 feet in width
*An 8-foot wide elevated, pedestrian sidewalk is located on the south side of the mid-block connector
*The pedestrian sidewalk is separated from the drive lane by a 3-foot landscaping strip
*The pedestrian sidewalk has continuous overhead weather protection
*The northwest side of the mid-block connector has landscaping to discourage pedestrians
*No pedestrian crossing north/south is provided for in the mid-block connector
*Pedestrian lighting in the mid-block connector
*The northeast side of the mid-block connector has a sidewalk and landscaping at the residential entry
*Vehicles may turn right only when exiting at Fauntleroy Way SW
*Roll-up doors were added to the loading bay area
*A drugstore drive-up window was eliminated.

Truck traffic has been a point of contention; the SDOT memo cites a Transportation Impact Analysis “prepared for this project by the Transpo Group.” The analysis says “It is anticipated that truck deliveries for the grocery store will consist of two semi-truck deliveries, one at 5 am and the other in the evening between 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. The traffic study also anticipates that an additional 20 to 40 deliveries from smaller trucks (such as small vendors and services such as UPS) will occur throughout the day between 5:30 am and 2 pm from Monday through Saturday and 5:30 am to noon on Sunday. Deliveries for smaller retailers around the site would utilize the curb, adjacent to the storefronts.

“All trucks entering the site will be directed to exit via the north/south alley through a dock-management plan and signage. Through the design workshops with SDOT, the truck maneuvering was improved so that trucks do not cross over the pedestrian sidewalk to enter the site.

“The Traffic Impact Analysis concluded that the overall impacts of trucks on-site are anticipated to be minimal, with the majority of the large truck activity occurring during the off-peak hours in the morning and evening.”

The document refers to public concern in multiple places. Other spots you can jump to if you want to make a quick review:

page 14 – SDOT does not find adverse land-use impacts

page 18 – Design Commission requests SDOT reconsider policy restricting midblock crosswalks so there could be one from the project’s west side across to future park

page 19 – SDOT does not make a recommendation on adequacy of public benefit proposal.

Next Tuesday’s public hearing will start at 9:30 am in the council chambers at City Hall downtown. It allots one hour for public comment, in addition to an hour-plus of presentations.

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See SDOT memo on The Whittaker’s alley-vacation request, one week before hearing http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/see-sdot-memo-on-the-whittakers-alley-vacation-request-one-week-before-hearing/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/03/see-sdot-memo-on-the-whittakers-alley-vacation-request-one-week-before-hearing/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:32:29 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=266722 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

We are now one week away from the project at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, now known as The Whittaker (previously nicknamed the Whole Foods project after its anchor tenant), going to the City Council Transportation Committee for a public hearing.

The public hearing, the date for which was set last month, is your chance to comment on the “alley vacation” requested by The Whittaker’s developers – asking for City Council approval of their potential purchase of alley space on the site, for their 370-apartment, 600-parking-space mixed-use project. It includes what some have described as a new private alley, a “midblock connector” through the project. In addition to paying what the city calls fair-market value for the alley space, developers are supposed to include a package of “public benefits” in order to gain approval.

With behind-the-scenes meetings and advocacy campaigns having been long under way, the hearing is shaping up as a showdown between project supporters and opponents; the latter most notably include UFCW Local 21, which funded a campaign called “Getting It Right for West Seattle” focused on raising concerns about the project, from Whole Foods’ pay scale to potential truck traffic. The project team launched a campaign of its own recently, including this website mentioned in postal-mail cards sent to people in proximity of the project.

The Seattle Department of Transportation reviews alley-vacation requests before they go to the City Council. Last July, you might recall, then-Mayor Mike McGinn told then-SDOT director Peter Hahn not to recommend approval of the alley vacation. The SDOT staff review was not complete at that time. It is now, one week in advance of the hearing, and we have just obtained it:

(The table/attachment referenced in the document is here.) In our first quick read of the 22-page document, we note that SDOT concludes that, “Should the City Council choose to support the vacation, it is recommended that the vacation be granted upon the Petitioner meeting” conditions laid out at the end of the document – you can see the long list of those conditions in the embedded document above.

We’ll be adding more to this story later this afternoon, and we’ll have a followup looking more closely at the campaigns focused on this proposal. Next Wednesday’s hearing is at 9:30 am in City Council Chambers at City Hall downtown.

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West Seattle development followup: Formal notice of March 11th hearing on 4755 Fauntleroy ‘alley vacation’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/west-seattle-development-followup-formal-notice-of-march-11th-hearing-on-4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/west-seattle-development-followup-formal-notice-of-march-11th-hearing-on-4755-fauntleroy-alley-vacation/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 16:50:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=264976 Back on Wednesday, we reported the date had finally been set for the City Council Transportation Committee’s public hearing on the “alley vacation” that needs council approval before The Whittaker, aka “the Whole Foods project,” can proceed at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW: 9:30 am March 11th in council chambers at City Hall. This morning, the official city notice is out – see it here. It includes details on how to comment at, and before, the March 11th hearing. It also includes this map of the site and the surrounding area (partially shown at right). The hearing before the Transportation Committee, chaired by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, is the first step in formal council consideration; the full council would consider it afterward.

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4755 Fauntleroy: First alley-vacation hearing expected March 11th http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/4755-fauntleroy-first-alley-vacation-hearing-expected-march-11th/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/02/4755-fauntleroy-first-alley-vacation-hearing-expected-march-11th/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 22:56:12 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=264796

(WSB file photo of the east-west alley that the development wants, along with a north-south section)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

One key approval still needed if the 4755 Fauntleroy SW (map) project, aka The Whittaker and “the Whole Foods project,” is to go forward is the one that became an issue in last year’s mayoral campaign: The “alley vacation” request, in which the developers are seeking approval to buy part of the alleys on the site, which are city-owned right of way. A date is finally set for the City Council review of the request to begin – March 11th, 9:30 am, the first hearing before the council’s Transportation Committee, chaired by West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

Though the date technically is still tentative, Councilmember Rasmussen tells WSB they expect SDOT to get all the necessary documentation in by then.

You’ll probably recall that last July, after the 7-story, ~370-apartment, ~600-parking-space project had gone through four Southwest Design Review Board meetings and four Seattle Design Commission reviews, then-Mayor Mike McGinn announced he was ordering then-SDOT director Peter Hahn to have his department “not forward a recommendation to approve this alley vacation request.” The project had already been opposed by UFCW Local 21, which has provided the funding for a group focused on raising concerns about the project, Getting It Right for West Seattle. We reported in November on “alternatives” for the site, commmissioned by GIRWS. The group has said it wants a Community Benefits Agreement.

We have a request out for a comment from Mayor Ed Murray, to see if he has taken a position on the alley-vacation request.

Meantime, SDOT has continued to review the alley-vacation request; we don’t know yet if its recommendation is final, but are also asking for that information if it’s available. Following Transportation Committee review, the proposed alley vacation would have to go to the full City Council for approval, as outlined in the city’s Street/Alley Vacation policy. (For a primer on the process, see this WSB story from last year.)

The project has changed architects, from Fuller Sears to Weber Thompson, which worked on two Junction projects now under construction (4730 California and the West Seattle Apartments at California/Alaska/42nd), but a project spokesperson tells us the design is not changing, saying the architect is changing because now they’re focusing on interior details and WT is more of a residential architect than FS.

WHAT’S NEXT: Watch Transportation Committee agendas for the formal listing of the 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW hearing, which will be in City Council chambers at City Hall downtown – there will be public comment, in case you want to save the date (again, March 11th). The Design Commission also has an administrative review (no public comment) later this month for final renderings of several elements of the “public benefit package” (detailed here) that it vetted as part of the alley-vacation process.

ADDED THURSDAY: The City Council agenda for next Tuesday (one day later than usual, since Monday is Presidents Day) includes a resolution setting this hearing date.

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‘The Whittaker’ chosen as name for 4755 Fauntleroy project, in honor of West Seattle native Jim Whittaker http://westseattleblog.com/2014/01/the-whittaker-chosen-as-name-for-4755-fauntleroy-project-in-honor-of-west-seattle-native-jim-whittaker/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/01/the-whittaker-chosen-as-name-for-4755-fauntleroy-project-in-honor-of-west-seattle-native-jim-whittaker/#comments Sat, 11 Jan 2014 00:27:18 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=261448

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The largest development currently planned for West Seattle now has a larger-than-life name:

The Whittaker.

The name chosen for 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW is a tribute to the West Seattle native who first made history as the first American to summit 29,028-foot Mount Everest, Jim Whittaker (right).

The legendary outdoorsman was, typically, outdoors when he talked with us about it – near the sea, not far from the mountains, standing in the rain at a spot where he could get a cell connection. Exactly one month shy of his 85th birthday, Whittaker says he has never had a building named for him before, jokingly telling us, “That’s usually something that happens after you’re dead.”

We also talked with spokespersons for project developers Lennar and Weingarten about the name choice and the status of what until now was just nicknamed “the Whole Foods project,” after its first announced tenant.

The project team says the choice was inspired by hearing from the community that the ~370-apartment complex is a “gateway project” that will be visible from a major crossroads and needed a name with legacy and meaning.

Whittaker’s outdoor legacy will inspire the design detail for the building’s outdoor and indoor spaces. As we reported during its Seattle Design Commission reviews, a “water’s edge” theme was already being pursued, and now “the mountains’ edge” will be incorporated – with a story and purpose, not just a vague concept.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of Whittaker’s history-making Everest expedition; the “mod” motifs of 1963 also will figure into design touches. The project team was meeting again this week with West Seattle artist Troy Pillow, whose work will be featured, to talk about what will help incorporate Whittaker’s legacy into the project, especially its outdoor amenity spaces.

The outdoors remain an integral part of Whittaker’s life, especially advocating for kids to get outside – “no child left inside.” He and his wife Dianne Roberts, a photographer, live in Port Townsend but visit West Seattle often for reasons including family – one of his children lives here.

“West Seattle is home,” is how Whittaker sees it. He was on the Olympic Peninsula coast when we talked for a few minutes by phone on Thursday. “I went to Fauntleroy grade school, James Madison Middle School, West Seattle High School … That’s where I got my hiking and climbing inspiration. My parents loved nature and the outdoors – we would go to the beach in Lincoln Park. And then starting in grade school, I would walk up the Fauntleroy hill to Arbor Heights [where his family lived], even at lunchtime, so I got a lot of exercise.”

If kids get outside, like he did, “they’ll learn a lot about themselves, and they’ll learn about the actual world.” And, like Whittaker, they may then be setting themselves up to keep active well into their later years. When we asked him what he’s focusing on these days, he laughed: “I’m 85 in a month and focusing on keeping vertical! I’m still skiing, and hiking … to enjoy every day is a gift.” As to the project that will now carry his name; West Seattle is a “hidden treasure,” in his view, with many still not aware, though it’s so close to downtown. (P.S. Go to HistoryLink.org to read a detailed biography about Jim Whittaker, whose accomplishments also include serving as CEO of REI, which too has significant West Seattle roots.

So now the project has a name.

But will it get final approval?

The writer and addressee of the famous “don’t approve the alley vacation” memo last year are both gone from Seattle city government (former Mayor Mike McGinn and former SDOT director Peter Hahn). We have an inquiry out to Mayor Murray’s office to ask his position on this but have not heard back yet.

Reps from SDOT and the Design Commission were expected to brief City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, whose Transportation Committee would be the first City Council stop for the proposal, this week.

No hearing had been set yet, as of our last check.

All the building permits have been applied for; a lot-boundary adjustment for the site is in the works now. In recent months, old tanks have been dug up from the former service station on the southwest corner of California/Alaska, and its canopy and islands were removed as part of that work, but the rest of its building remains, as does the former home of Howden-Kennedy (which moved to 35th/Ida) and former auto lots, waiting for word of whether The Whittaker will be built.

First image in this story, courtesy Fuller Sears Architects; second image, courtesy Jim Whittaker and Dianne Roberts.

Our coverage of the 4755 Fauntleroy Way project is archived here, newest to oldest.

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Union-commissioned alternatives shown for 4755 Fauntleroy site http://westseattleblog.com/2013/11/union-commissioned-alternatives-shown-for-4755-fauntleroy-site/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/11/union-commissioned-alternatives-shown-for-4755-fauntleroy-site/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 23:34:23 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=256518

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Through the city’s half-dozen-plus public meetings related to the design of 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, to be anchored by a Whole Foods Market, members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 were a constant presence, voicing concerns, keeping watch on the project, often with a contingent of members/leaders in yellow logo-bearing T-shirts.

After the project’s design won final approvals in that process from the Southwest Design Review Board and the Seattle Design Commission, the union launched a campaign called Getting It Right for West Seattle, focused on the remaining approval needed by the project – the City Council’s blessing for the project’s requested “alley vacation,” in which the developer seeks approval to buy publicly owned alley land. The campaign scored an early victory with Mayor McGinn‘s July announcement that SDOT would be told to recommend the council reject the alley vacation, for concerns including worker wages.

While that part of the process rolls slowly along, UFCW Local 21 has paid for a University of Washington architecture professor to develop two “alternative designs” for the site. Monday night, those designs – one of which would potentially have room for a Whole Foods or other big chain store, one of which was not – were “offered up as food for thought,” as union organizer and West Seattle resident Elena Perez put it. She organized the presentation at Emeritus-West Seattle (WSB sponsor) with about two dozen people in attendance, not including the site’s developers/owners, Weingarten Realty and Lennar, to whom Perez said she’d given notice too late.

However, a member of the Huling family, which previously owned most of the site, was there and spoke up in a somewhat dramatic moment – more on that later.

Perez characterized their ongoing interest in the site – which she clarified is the focus of GIR4WS, not local development in general – as anchored in the “precedent” it would set, and reiterated that the advocates’ goal is what they stated it to be half a year ago – to obtain a Community Benefit Agreement “with local West Seattle stakeholders” as part of a deal with the city for the alley vacation, which would involve selling two sections of alley for fair-market value plus a public-benefit package (this slide deck from June details the public benefits approved by the Design Commission in that stage of the review).

The alternative designs by Dr. Sharon Sutton turned out to involve only the commercial level of the site, leaving the rest of it to imagination/speculation. Though Dr. Sutton herself was not in attendance, the designs were presented and described by West Seattleite Deb Barker, who served four years on the Southwest Design Review Board and is a retired land-use planner.

Barker made it clear she was speaking for herself as a private citizen, unrelated to other community-advocacy roles in which she currently serves. She extended the invitation for us to cover the meeting; GIR4WS had not sent announcements of previous meetings, either for news coverage or public-calendar postings.

After a condensed primer on the process through which the project already has gone, Barker reiterated that UFCW Local 21 had paid for Dr. Sutton’s work, which she compared and contrasted with selections from the design packet for one of the public meetings about the project’s official design by Fuller Sears Architects, the Seattle Design Commission session on June 20th, like this one:

Barker also explained the alley vacation process (here’s the city’s primer) and the “mid-block connector” currently designed into the project as a sort of replacement alley, the target of criticism at many official reviews because it would be used by trucks as well as pedestrians. “You’re going to get to play duck-dodge with a panel truck or semi-truck,” Barker contended. (The union had talked at previous city meetings, like this one in April, about its studies of a North Seattle Whole Foods store, with at least 4 semitrucks daily and up to 31 panel trucks making deliveries.)

Continuing to set the stage before showing the alternatives, she also zeroed in on the “gateway” corner of the development, the southwest corner of Fauntleroy/Alaska (roughly where the former gas station is being dismantled/dug up right now). Here’s what the official design includes:

(See the two alternatives below, one for each envisioned concept.) Barker explained that Dr. Sutton was just asked to deal “with the pedestrian experience” – not the residential floors of the project. The input she was given included a survey circulated online by Getting It Right for West Seattle (in response to a question later, Perez said 357 responses had been received, this past July and August) as well as two charrettes whose participants were described as “community activists and UFCW 21 representatives.”

The two concepts were labeled Alley and Market. Barker said she wasn’t sure which she liked better: “To me, these are breaths of fresh air, just imagining the possibilities.” Here is “Alley”:

The parking access would change, and any “large retail opportunity” would front Fauntleroy. Deliveries for that would be on the Fauntleroy/Edmunds corner. The midblock connector/pass-through “would be for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles only.” There would be second-floor roofs with raingardens.

The gateway area – Fauntleroy/Alaska – concept for the “alley” design was described as an “egg” because of its shape:

Next, the “market concept.” Barker referenced the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, the Reading Market in Philadelphia, Melrose Market on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, saying it was envisioned as including “a big place for small businesses, lots and lots and lots of small businesses, access onto streets,” with live-work units on the southeast side, facing Fauntleroy, “places for hanging out,” and a “huge internal space” on the north side, with doors opening to the streets on the west.

“From inside the market, you pour out into a stage area with outdoor seating and a performance area,” and sunshine from the southwest corner (though it should be noted a development is set for that side, too).

From the back of the room at that point: “Where’s Whole Foods?”

“Maybe not in this project,” Barker replied. She went on to show the imagined “gateway” for this configuration, “a very, very, very large space several stories tall, surrounded by windows,” enabling people to see into the “market space,” and out to the theoretically sun-dappled public park/performance area.”

She declared this to be a design that would be more of a “gateway,” more of a “true entry statement than the 4755 Fauntleroy design currently has.”

Sharonn Meeks, who had served on the Triangle Advisory Group whose work was part of a city zoning overhaul of the area – including this site, technically west of The Triangle – asked at that point: “This is one-sixth of the project; what are you doing with the rest?” She pointed out that this configuration would certainly include fewer residential units.

Barker reiterated that “Dr. Sutton wasn’t asked to get into (that).”

The next question asked again about what kind of supermarket could fit into the envisioned space. Barker thought a “two-story Whole Foods” might work. She also recalled a “three-story Home Depot in the middle of a dense Chicago neighborhood,” and noted that developers have choices.

Though project developers weren’t at this meeting, as noted earlier, this is where a member of the family that sold most of the site to the developers spoke up.

Grant Huling said he wanted to “offer himself as a resource,” including availability to talk with attendees post-meeting (which he did).

He expressed appreciation for people caring about development, but said it appeared to him that “UFCW has picked a fight with this one project” at a time that is “particularly late in the process … I think a lot of community energy is getting steered toward this project, when there are a number of mixed-use things happening and they all should have community fingerprints on them … ”

Another attendee asked, “So who’s going to see these proposals?”

Perez replied: “Well, you are, tonight …”

The questioner asked, “But, in terms of making changes” to the project …

Perez acknowledged, “It’s not that you’re going to vote tonight and say ‘yay’ and it’s magically going to happen.” But, she said, they believe Seattle is “hot,” a place developers want to be, but they don’t “think it’s good enough” for an “urban infill” project.

Then addressing Grant Huling, she defended UFCW 21′s “concern about jobs … we have thousands of members who live in West Seattle like myself who want an enjoyable development. … We’re not saying our vision is the correct one. One of these designs does have space for a large anchor tenant, that could be Whole Foods.”

The next comment from the audience suggested that the “safety issue” might be the “wedge” that could be taken to the city. (It has been – our coverage of the project’s reviews by the Seattle Design Commission includes this report from last April, at which time UFCW reps brought up the truck-traffic concerns.)

Two other attendees asked about coordination of major projects, and about the Junction and Triangle plans on file with the city. Barker explained that they can be found as documents in city files (here’s the 1999 West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Plan; here are documents containing results of the recent round of Triangle planning), noting that the midblock connector for this site was a concept in the Triangle plan, not something the developer pulled “out of mid-air.” Here’s how it’s shown in the plan (before this project was proposed):

Dr. Sutton is meeting with Councilmember Rasmussen and possibly others to discuss “from a professional standpoint why there are major concerns in the (developers’) proposal,” said Perez, adding that other “neighbors” are setting meetings with councilmembers too. “Our position is that this can be a win-win, a developer can have a very profitable development. If it ends up having a Whole Foods in it, so be it.”

At that point, Meeks, president of the nearby Fairmount Community Association – south of SW Alaska, uphill from The Triangle – noted that the Triangle Advisory Group had “worked for 14 months” and “worked on the concept of what we considered a true gateway into West Seattle – It’s not this project (site), it’s what was funded (by City Council earlier this week, as reported here), the (Fauntleroy) Green Boulevard. … My concern here is that this seems to be targeted toward a (certain) project, not a vetting of what the Triangle group came together to work on. I didn’t see you supporting (the Green Boulevard).”

That’s when Perez clarified, “Getting It Right for West Seattle is very specific to this project.”

Questions still persisted about what the alternative designs would be used for, what could still happen at this part of the process. That’s when Shawn Terjeson got up and explained how he got involved, and why he is currently making the rounds to meet with city councilmembers. “I got excited about the alley vacation,” he said. “They’re building a trench from Fauntleroy to California that’s only good for cars unless you’re going to Whole Foods or LA Fitness” (in Spruce, the former “Hole,” across the street) … “My goal is to have these people build us something that is livable, exciting, that will draw us into West Seattle. The Triangle plan is fantastic.”

An attendee asked, “What’s to stop them from building this is there is no alley vacation?” Barker replied that the “existing configuration of the alleyway limits the footprint of the building.”

Asked again at the end if the designs would be taken to the developer, Perez said she sent an invitation to the “community liaison for the developers on Saturday” but “they didn’t have enough time … we’ve been very open about wanting to sit down and work with them on this, but at this point all we can do is work through the public process – democracy isn’t always pretty.”

We asked a development team spokesperson for comment:

We have not met with the union on this topic. We are already more than two years into a design that is wholly consistent with the West Seattle Triangle Plan’s community-led vision for this property. Additionally, the existing design has been approved by the West Seattle Design Review Board and the Seattle Design Commission.

We are moving ahead with the City’s process for an alley vacation, which includes paying fair-market value for the alley, as well as providing more than $2M in additional on-site public benefit. The City process for an alley vacation does not include a community benefit agreement.

When a date is set for the next step in that process – likely going to the City Council’s Transportation Committee after the first of the year – we’ll let you know.

SIDE NOTE: For an example of a “Community Benefit Agreement” precedent, the one negotiated in 2008 for a Central District project is cited. (The project was canceled the following year, after recession hit.)

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