Junction development: Letter from Conner Homes’ president

When we published this WSB story yesterday afternoon about some Junction businesspeople circulating petitions opposing the alley “vacation” proposed by Conner Homes for its California/Alaska/42nd buildings, we promised to share any response from Conner Homes as soon as we received it. So here’s the entirety of a letter e-mailed to WSB a short time ago:

August 1, 2008

Dear Neighbors,

We are aware that some of you are concerned about our proposed development at the junction of Alaska and California Streets.

Please be assured that it has always been our intention to build a project that enhances the Junction. We have tried to keep the community aware of our plans and, to this end, have already had a number of group and individual meetings to update residents and merchants as they have progressed. We will continue to do so.

However, if any of you feel that we have been remiss on this score, we will be happy to meet with you either in a group or separately, so please feel to contact me or Project Manager, James Miller directly and we will set something up.

I understand that many of you are concerned about the impact of the development on overall parking in the area as well as the effects of our proposed alley vacation.

In terms of parking, we want to make it clear that our development will INCREASE the number of parking spaces available to the public. The number of surface spaces will remain roughly the same and there will be a considerable amount of new parking for retail created in our proposed underground garage. As a result the current parking congestion will be lessened.

We have also heard that there are worries that our development will somehow lead to the development of the public parking lots owned by the West Seattle Trustees Parking Association. We do not know how this rumor got started but it is completely false. Our development will have absolutely no effect on these lots and as a member of the Association we are not aware of any plans to develop these lots.

As far as the alley vacation we are confident that this will be a real plus for the abutting owners representing the majority of the properties along the alley have supported it. Still we appreciate the concerns of some merchants about possible disruption to their business and we want to assure them that we will work directly with them to come up with a solution (turnarounds etc.) to mitigate those impacts.

We do want to be clear that this is not a permanent alley vacation but only temporary to allow completion of the underground garage. Once this process is complete (in around 10-12 months) the alley will be restored to a much improved condition.

Specifically, the overhead wires will be under grounded, the alley will be widened and pedestrian friendly amenities will be added. These mitigations, along with a pedestrian walkway between 42nd Street and California will make the alley a real asset to the community overall.

As an additional mitigation we have also agreed to commit substantial funds to getting the proposed public park across the street from our property off the ground to the benefit of all residents and merchants in the area.

It should be noted that the two large developments underway in the area will be completed before we begin construction so that overall disruption to the community will not increase.

Finally, we firmly believe that a quality development in this location will improve the Junction, both in terms of housing and new retail opportunities for all West Seattle residents, as well as provide increased business activity for existing merchants.

As long term owners of the property we are fully committed to improving the Junction and welcome any opportunity to work with you to achieve this end.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to working with you to make this a project we can all be proud of.

Charlie Conner
James Miller

21 Replies to "Junction development: Letter from Conner Homes' president"

  • Jeff in Arbor Heights August 1, 2008 (4:51 pm)

    West Seattle does not want your condo’s or any other large housing complexes PERIOD.
    “WE THE PEOPLE” MUST RALLY TO STOP THIS MADNESS Before it’s too late. It’s already almost too late.
    So to all the brilliant people who care only of money. Where will all the cars go on the streets? It will be gridlock right in Wonderful West Seattle. HEY MAYOR (or?) PLEASE PUT A STOP TO THIS MADNESS.
    One car pretty much per unit, or more… times how many new units in west Seattle?
    The beautiful, quite, simple West Seattle is being ruined. WE MUST STOP THIS NOW…
    I have lived here for almost 14 years now and I’m feeling like moving if this keeps up. Sure the developers can candy coat it just like the government snows us.
    WE ALL NEED TO TAKE ACTION NOW. I say hold a meeting to share ideas at a church or public place. People interested in this please send me an e-mail and I will set it up. We could post flyer’s and use the great West Seattle Blog or Craigslist to help our cause.
    ***The next public meeting regarding a major local development is the Design Review Board meeting August 14th for Fauntleroy Place- (the old schucks location by bowling alley). I do not know where this meeting will be held.

    hotrod325@yahoo.com (WEST SEATTLE in subject line)

  • jai August 1, 2008 (5:28 pm)

    Jeff in Arbor Heights doesn’t speak for all of West Seattle. I personally am excited about this development and others that will help create an urban core complete with restaurants, nightlife and, gasp, evidently dreaded salons and high-end boutiques: all while promoting a culture of walking and the densities needed for true mass transit.

  • WSB August 1, 2008 (6:20 pm)

    Jeff, it’s in our Events calendar
    the DR meeting for Fauntleroy Place (and the High Point mixed-use building at 35th/Graham) will be at the High Point Community Center. The HP development is at 6:30 pm, the Junction/Triangle development at 8 pm.

  • Todd August 1, 2008 (7:33 pm)

    Jeff I feel the same way you do but sadly if it’s zoned for it, it does not matter what the public thinks. You can comment at the design review board but it’s just that, a comment. I’ve seen so many things promised or agreed to at the design meeting then 6 months later, the structure is different, has different businesses in it that were promised. Charlestown center case in point!! Not sure if money is behind it or just people wanting to ruin a good thing, maybe they like to sit in more traffic, pay more for utilities, want more crime, more congestion, etc? I don’t but there isn’t anything we can do about it but move. Believe me I have tried. So, we’re supposed to give up the car and take buses?! Add a bus or 10? No plan right now for getting peoples arses to work except the bus or we’re supposed to walk or ride a bike in the snow, rain, with our children. Yeah right. What about the elderly? Someone on this blog got a city council person involved to no avail. Good luck, I’m done. Enough is enough but developers wont stop until we’re al living on top of one another. Developement might just be an excuse to make money.. I don’t see what we need more that we already have.

  • Todd August 1, 2008 (7:54 pm)

    BOHICA, spin, spin, spin. I don’t think a developer is anymore your friend than an insurance adjuster. They are going to srew you in the end, low ball you etc, especially for your house. “Oh, you don’t want to live next to all this noise next door when we tear down that perfectly good home, now do ya? Lemme give ya $175k for your 400k house. Ain’t I great.” It must have worked, look at 35th and almost all of Fauntleroy.
    Almost every parcel is developed or changed any way, why not just go and do whatever you want. It does not pay to have an opinion otherwise, the mayors office basically said that to me. Enjoy, you can have it.

  • Rick August 1, 2008 (8:11 pm)

    In most cases, if you follow the money you’ll find out why what happens, happens. Bummer

  • alkirez August 1, 2008 (10:46 pm)

    Jeff most certainly does not speak for everyone in west seattle. Personally, I think the existing buildings on this area of land are some of the ugliest in West Seattle, just as the Schucks/Hancock Fabric sites were until they came down.

    I think that half the people that make comments on this site will side against developers no matter what they say or do. Nobody likes townhomes, new businesses, or anything that changes how things are currently.

    I hate to break it to you people, things will change. The best thing you can do is help guide this change. I think that the conner homes people have taken a thoughtful and responsive approach to this project. They are investing millions of dollars in this project, let’s try to make sure that that money is spent in a way that we can be proud of.

    Here’s to trying to make west seattle change for the better…

  • Rick August 1, 2008 (11:23 pm)

    I most certainly don’t speak for everyone in West Seattle. Am I a new rez, or a shill?

  • artsea August 2, 2008 (8:35 am)

    I join with those who don’t embrace the many changes happening in the junction area, but it’s the city government which has made all this possible. And yet, we keep re-electing most of those council members. But, that’s another subject. My concern right now is with some of these new “highrises” (which is how they are seen to most of us in this area) and what sort of businesses will be going into the sidewalk level spaces in them. As we have seen just north and south of the Junction, it is accountants offices and law offices and other BORING places. Hopefully, these in-the-Junction storefronts will truly contain stores. I fear that they won’t and we will find no reason to walk along those sidewalks to enjoy shopping opportunities in the Junction.

  • Meghan August 2, 2008 (3:22 pm)

    Thank you, alkirez, for your comments! It’s nice to know there are at least a few people in West Seattle who are progressive and actually realize that a community that is 10 minutes by car from a major city center IS going to change whether they like it or not! It just seems that so many people in West Seattle are against just about any and all new development in W. Seattle (UNLESS it benefits them personally, of course, like a new Yarn Barn near their home if they personally knit). No wonder we have so many under-developed commercial properties compared to the entire rest of the city! Drive down Fauntleroy, Delridge, or parts of California and compare it to (e.g.) Ballard or Wallingford. W. Seattle is full of surface parking lots and sub-standard buildings housing irrelevant business (IF they have a tenant at all). Even though we’re a big % of the population of the city of Seattke, we don’t even have a decent hotel. And every attempt at building one is shot down. (“Oh the traffic! Oh, the construction! Oh, I want West Seattle to feel like a small town”!). I mean Heaven forbid someone has to walk an extra 1/2 block to Petco! Or park in a (FREE) parking garage! Let’s just keep surface parking lots instead of badly needed housing so people won’t have to get used to anything new! SHEESH!!!

  • Rick August 2, 2008 (3:55 pm)

    Yes, I’ll use my $$$ to buy into my quaint, charming neighborhood that I just moved into and used my $$$ to make it more like my old neighborhood and then bitch about it because it’s it’s not the quaint, charming neighborhood I moved into. Having money and influence makes ya happy, don’t it?

  • fiz August 2, 2008 (9:42 pm)

    Rick, I’m with you. I’ve been in this “quaint, charming neighborhood” since the late 1940’s. To see six and nine story massive buildings going up in the Junction is hard to accept.

  • acemotel August 3, 2008 (12:11 am)

    I’m sorry, Meghan, but if you want West Seattle to look and feel like Ballard or Wallingford, why in heaven’s name don’t you move there? Whenever I go to those places, especially Ballard, I thank my lucky stars that I live in West Seattle. In the last decade Ballard has become an urban nightmare: packed-in townhouses without adequate infrastructure improvements = gridlock. Add a severe shortage of open spaces and park properties and you have an environment unfit for human habitation. It’s what happens when development is left to developers, occurring lot by lot, guided by the profit motive and without an overriding plan that can only come from local government. Where are the great minds in our city, those who can guide us to accommodate increased density? It’s not that so many of us (not the shills) are AGAINST progress as much as we are FOR thoughtful planning. Developers will always promise the moon. It’s not their problem when city streets cannot accommodate the residents of their condos, not to mention all the rest of West Seattle.

  • grr August 3, 2008 (12:33 am)

    Exactly. Jeff certainly does NOT speak for me. I am VERY excited about the new development coming to WS. I’m glad to see the ugly old bldgs torn down. West Seattle is becoming more and more SELF SUFFICIENT every year. I look forward to the day when I DON”T have to cross the bridge, because everything I need is right here!

  • Rick August 3, 2008 (4:02 am)

    Welcome to the new and improved We$t $eattle. We’re hi$tory.

  • acemotel August 3, 2008 (8:28 am)

    Maybe I wasn’t clear in my last message, but Rick, I agree with you.

  • MLJ August 4, 2008 (9:32 am)

    I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the people opposed to this project (and other similar developments) as mere obstructionists. There are several valid concerns being presented here and in other forums, and I haven’t heard any proponent of this “progress” address them directly yet.

    The truth is, developers of individual properties (or in this case two ginormous ones) aren’t being required to improve the infrastructure of the communities they’re developing in, to offset the impact of the increase in density their projects create.

    Offering to throw some money into the pocket park adjacent to the project is an empty gesture. The people they hope to sell those condos to will benefit greatly from that park.

    We are about to be land-locked people! Between the Spokane Street work starting now, and the viaduct replacement over the next 15 years, we’re going to have to start factoring in hour-long drives to get in and out of here. Increased density will only compound this issue.

    These developers should be required to address the impact of their developments just like they are with SEPA requirements. If vacating the alley is going to negatively impact existing businesses, they should have to subsidize those businesses until the project is completed.

    If they are planning on bringing in 500 new families, each with at least 1 vehicle, then they should have to contribute to an effort to make more transit options available.

    Or better yet, they should be required to invest in more public amenities like parks, so that people who are stuck here on weekends because of traffic have something to do.

    That Conner site would be a great place for a large public commons with an amphitheater, some chess tables, green space, public art, and of course…a skatedot ;) As density increases, this is what we need, not an improved alley and a tiny pocket park.

    But instead we’re going to sell out the core spaces in our community to more soul-free mixed use development, without getting anything in return.

    In Ballard, they exchanged increased density with Pro-Parks money for the Commons park and the new library. What’s West Seattle getting in exchange for this and other high-impact developments? No light rail and 15-20 years of road construction gridlock?


  • villagegreen August 4, 2008 (10:18 am)

    I’m confused. So, is this development going to be condos or apartments. Mural just around the corner (across from Safeway) is apartments, right? I’m much more in favor of apartments in West Seattle as we’re sorely lacking in that department. Condos seem a dime and dozen and bit played out at this point.

  • grr August 4, 2008 (10:27 pm)

    I think there’s too many people in WS that really just need to move to Orting. You’ll be good for at least 20 years of ‘small town’ attitude out there.

  • island dweller August 5, 2008 (12:55 pm)

    Having lived in West Seattle (which I affectionately refer to as “the island”) for nearly all of my 41 years I have seen change abundant, some good (how about the Luna Park corner), some bad (Marty “I love to fix flat tires” leaving for Burien), but all inevitable.

    I lived in Ballard for a couple of years over a decade ago, and I HAD to get back to WS. This was even before the mega-developers took over and ruined Ballard, but even then it was in it’s death rattle.

    West Seattle is a truly special place which we must preserve, not by resisting development, but rather by holding our elected officials accountable through our votes and electing those that will force developers to work within the fabric of an area wide (read: WS) plan that resists developing for developing’s sake.

    I don’t know anything about these builders, but at least they are communicating in a pro-active manner, which they are not obligated to do in any way shape or form. If their communication is any indication of what type of company they are, it’s a plus.

    Don’t hate the developer for working within the confines of what is established by the city. Especially when they are telling us what they are doing and what the impacts are going to be.


  • New in WS (3 yrs) August 6, 2008 (10:45 am)

    From what I understand from talking to the shop owners on California Avenue, the ones that this whole project affects most, is that this is more about Conner Homes than about development.

    Conner has never been a supporter of anything having to do with West Seattle. His company does not give to the nonprofits in the neighborhood that actually do good for the community (ArtsWest, Helpline, Food bank, etc.). The other builders — Harbor Properties (The Mural) being the leader — have participated in community gatherings and meetings; some have contributed large sums to the nonprofits (BlueStar has not, to date, but every indication is that they will), communicated with everyone every step of the way, and while they’re all out to make a buck, they are doing it with much more community buy-in than Conner. Which is odd, because Conner has been an owner for a long time, evidently. This is why their request for an alley vacation (wreaking havoc on every business on California that needs its alleys — the restaurants in particular) ought to be dismissed out of hand until they become members of the community that heretofore they seemingly just want to soak. Shame on them.

    I understand that there are some petitions available at places immediately affected like the toy store Curious Kidstuff. I’ll be going there to sign my name today.

Sorry, comment time is over.