So acknowledged City Councilmember Sally Clark this afternoon during her Junction walking tour (first brief WSB report here) with nearby resident Sue Scharff, who invited the Planning, Land Use, and Neighborhoods Committee chair to come see a neighborhood on the brink of major change. Here’s what else Clark had to say — plus video, including Scharff’s thoughts after the tour:
That’s Clark at Hotwire Coffee (WSB sponsor), where Scharff and friend Andie Nauss had arranged to meet her before they hit the street. Clark showed up with assistant Dan Nolte, and talk turned immediately to the development concerns roiling West Seattle, including the questions about what kind of retail would accompany the mixed-use projects on the drawing board (as shown in this WSB-created map, along with major real-estate listings in the area):
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Coincidentally, Hotwire proprietor Lora Lewis told Clark, leaders from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce and West Seattle Junction Association were scheduled to meet tonight at Ama Ama to discuss their official position on what type of business they hope developers will try to bring in. (The Chamber also had asked for citizen feedback in this WSB post, and we have reported previously about developers’ meetings with local groups, including this one with Conner Homes shortly after its proposal for two buildings at 42nd/California/Alaska.) Having a position meeting “is really smart,” Clark told Lewis.
After another spate of the rapidly changing weather we’ve experienced for weeks now, the sun was out and shining brightly as the group set out down California for a firsthand look at some of the development sites. Here’s Clark and Scharff leading the way:
The first stop was the 42nd/Oregon project that will replace four small houses lined up heading south from the southeast corner (the first version of the proposal was panned at its “early design guidance” meeting last October). Clark was careful at most stops not to express an opinion on any proposed project, but instead asked many questions to try to understand the zoning as well as neighborhood history and character.
From there, down 42nd, past the old house at 4532 42nd that’s been long planned for teardown-to-mixed-use, and then past the Capco Plaza megaproject, furthest along of any of West Seattle’s current megaprojects, though Mural to the south (across from Jefferson Square) is making rapid progress too. Its developer, Harbor Properties, which also is proposing a mixed-use building at 38th/Alaska and has bought the motel property a few blocks east from there, won praise from Clark (“you could do worse than Harbor, and some neighborhoods have,” she said, mentioning repeatedly that other areas around the city have concerns similar to those of many West Seattleites).
The group moved on to Alaska and westward to the Walk All Ways corner, across from the Conner Homes proposals, and Scharff described the business district’s unique character and said plaintively, “What’s bad about this – why does it have to change?” Clark acknowledged the neighborhood’s unmistakable character and noted, when told most surrounding blocks are zoned for 6-story development, “You could try going for downzoning, but you might not get far.”
Scharff hit repeatedly on the theme that no one seems happy about the development; Clark wondered aloud if that were true, saying she only hears from people who are unhappy about something, and doesn’t want to assume that means no one is happy about anything.
She had no magic words of advice, nor promises or commitments, beyond keeping the promise she had made to come out and get a closer look at an area of West Seattle poised for major change. After almost an hour and a half, Clark and her assistant said goodbye, and we asked Scharff and Nauss how they felt about the visit:
Scharff also said it’s important for citizens to know they really can get leaders’ attention, even if the eventual decisions don’t go the way they hope. Seattle City Councilmembers serve on a citywide basis, not by district, so they all represent you (one councilmember, Tom Rasmussen, is a West Seattle resident); you can find their contact information here.
Clark keeps a blog, by the way; you can read it here. During a pause in the West Seattle-specific discussion, we asked her for any update on the status of the controversial “multi-family code” changes that have been in the works for months (original WSB report from last fall is here); she said the mayor’s office is currently expected to send some kind of proposal to the council in June, but she does not expect any final action before next year, because — among other reasons — budgeting matters will keep the council and its staff busy for much of the fall. (And don’t forget, a public hearing on the city budget will happen May 22 in West Seattle, at High Point Community Center.)