First round in “Painted Lady” front-lawn development fight

It wasn’t criminal court, but at times it felt almost that contentious — with occasional interjections of OBJECTION! — as the city Hearing Examiner heard the first witness today in the fight over whether homebuilding will be allowed on the expansive front lawn of Beach Drive’s “Painted Lady.” The home — an official city landmark — is also known as the Satterlee House, and its former owner David Satterlee was the first witness to testify, several days before lawyers on both sides will present the bulk of their cases. We went to the Hearing Examiner’s windowless room on the 40th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown to see how this would unfold:

To briefly recap: Satterlee sold the property to homebuilder William Conner in 2000. At one point, there was a proposal to build cottages on the front lawn. Now, the property has been on the market for a year and a half, and a plan’s been in the works to split the lawn into three lots for homebuilding. However, because of the landmark designation (which dates back to the early ’80s), development would require a “Certificate of Approval” from the city Landmarks Board, which said no; Conner is appealing that decision, and that’s why it’s before the Hearing Examiner.

At this afternoon’s hearing: Satterlee, Conner’s lawyer, city representatives, and a Beach Drive neighbor brought in by the city as a “rebuttal witness” at the end.

Satterlee was there as a witness for the appeal; while being questioned by Conner’s lawyer for more than an hour, he said he had bought the house from his aunt in 1972, and she gave him a five-year option to buy the rest of the land; he took the option just before it expired, with, he said, the expectation that eventually he could develop the land or sell it for development.

During that questioning and the follow-up questioning by the city’s rep, the points of contention focused on how the property came to become a landmark — Satterlee at first suggested the idea was proposed to him, but the city produced paperwork suggesting he was the one who pursued it — as well as whether a big hedge along Beach Drive in front of the property came down before or after the landmark designation. (Preserving views of the historic home is part of what was involved in that designation, so there’s some importance i the issue of whether the hedge was blocking views from Beach Drive at the time.)

Satterlee contended that he had been told by someone from the city — he couldn’t recall who — that the landmark designation wouldn’t lead to any restriction on future development, which was not the case. He also said he sold the property to Conner believing the designation wouldn’t affect potential development; the city produced various items of paperwork suggesting Satterlee had acknowledged otherwise during the sale process.

As for the hedge, that’s where the rebuttal witness came in — he lives across Beach Drive and had provided the city with a photo taken in 1980 or 1981 (before the landmark designation) showing his kids and the Satterlee children in front of the “Painted Lady” property. No hedge. (An aerial photo shown by the city seemed to confirm the implication that it was taken down earlier than Satterlee recalled.)

Next steps: Both sides present their complete cases March 10 and 13. Once the Hearing Examiner issues her decision, that’s the city’s final say, challengeable only in court.

8 Replies to "First round in "Painted Lady" front-lawn development fight"

  • vp March 5, 2008 (7:35 pm)

    This is great that you’re covering this story in such detail. We’ve been involved in trying to preserve this landmark throughout Conner’s various proposed developments since Dave sold the property…. eight years ago! We’ve never been able to get any media interest or coverage… until now. Thank you.

  • grr March 5, 2008 (8:52 pm)

    wish I had the $$$ to just buy the whole damn thing and turn it into a full restoration on ‘This Old House’.

  • Jana March 5, 2008 (11:18 pm)

    I grew up across the street from this beautiful house and have many wonderful memories of playing there with my brother. I wish they would just make the front yard into a small public park and call it done.

  • A.M. March 6, 2008 (8:53 am)

    It would also be a great place for the next “tent city”

  • grr March 6, 2008 (11:34 am)

    yeah….right….that’s a -great- idea.


  • LA in the Junction March 6, 2008 (7:45 pm)

    Thanks for the update, I’ve been wondering where this stands. I walk by there all the time and hope that the house, lawn, and character of the place stays intact. Like we really need more townhomes in front of the Painted Lady!

  • owner B.D. Terrace March 7, 2008 (4:40 am)

    It is my understanding that “Dave” got the landmark status as a property tax dodge. I don’t think he did his homework as to how this would bite him when sold the property. I say it is a landmark and should STAY as a land mark. 3 houses
    on that lot will NOT fit into the neighborhood.
    You can bet that if the 3 houses are built, they will now park on Beach Drive Terrace. My 2 cents

  • BORN &RAISED WEST SEATTLEITE March 7, 2008 (7:18 pm)

    Just like the Junction development…We all need to move soon before we are little “Blahview”and Mr. Gates and family wipe out everybody’s views!!Somebody needs to step to[ up Greggy Nichols, Patty, our West Seattle reps)and start giving them an earful before it’s all gone!!Enough is Enough!!!Too many beautiful and historic homes have been wiped out by Real Estate greed and we all pay for it in the long run. Wow have you driven thru the old “Highpoint” lately look at that! I hate to see what’s happening to my beloved West Seattle…

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