‘The Hole’ followups: Read the ruling; see who’s tracking its safety

(Aerial view of The Hole, September 2009)
“The Hole” – the excavated Fauntleroy Place site at Alaska/Fauntleroy/39th – has been sitting there for two years, through the snowy winter of 2008-2009, the not-too-bad winter of 2009-2010, and the rainy-so-far fall of 2010, with no likelihood of any change in its status soon. That was addressed by King County Superior Court Judge Susan Craighead this past Monday when she issued her decision in the first major trial related to the stalled development (WSB coverage here). By the way, the full 53-page decision is now online; we’ve downloaded a copy and re-uploaded it so you can read it – go here. A judgment ordering foreclosure sale – a document that was not available while we were in court on Monday – is also online now; read it here. Meantime, we’ve looked into the safety issues she raised. As noted in our Monday report, Judge Craighead wrote:

… The ongoing viability of that excavation is in doubt. The shoring system that supports the excavation is by design a temporary system. It was neither designed nor intended to be in place for longterm suspension of the Project, and it has already been in place two years, well beyond its intended life span. The City of Seattle is the governing jurisdiction, and can at any time order that it be decommissioned and the excavation filled in, and if the owner fails to perform such an order, the City holds a $1 million cash deposit in pay for that work to be performed. … In the meantime, the shored excavation is subject to potential failure. Even a minor failure, where one of the shored walls shifted inward by just a matter of inches would result in substantial displacement and settlement of soils supporting adjacent streets, houses and other structures.

So, how specifically is it being “governed” by the city? We took the question to two city agencies. First, the Department of Planning and Development, which issues permits for projects. Spokesperson Bryan Stevens told WSB, “Both DPD and SDOT receive a monthly summary report of the shoring monitoring from the private geotechnical special inspector that was hired by the owner (The Riley Group took over from the shoring designer, Kleinfelder). The survey readings are taken twice a week. SDOT also has their inspectors visit the site periodically. To date, things have looked good.”

As for the question of the $1 million bond, and what it would take to order that an excavation like this be filled, Stevens referred us to SDOT, whose communications director Rick Sheridan provided answers to our questions. Read on for that part of the story:

First, regarding the bond itself, Sheridan explains: “The $1.2 million bond was a condition of the permit from DPD and has been in place since the start of construction. Under Title 15, this bond is to be used to backfill the excavation if it is needed and there is no response from the owners of the project.” How would it be decided a backfill is needed? “The decision to backfill would be a coordinated effort between DPD, SDOT and the project team. It would be based on monitoring data and field observations, which would be indicative of the performance of the temporary shoring system.”

The monitor involves not only the twice-weekly checks that DPD’s Stevens mentioned, but also, according to Sheridan, “SDOT also conducts field observations on a weekly basis to observe the perimeter of the site.”

He says that backfills are rare, but cites a relatively recent case: “…in the past year or so, there were concerns raised about the installed temporary shoring system for the 1602 2nd Ave. project (just west of the Macy’s parking garage). After meetings between DPD, SDOT and the project team, the owners of the project elected to backfill the excavation. ”

Meantime, as for what happens next with the project: Other legal cases are pending; we are continuing to watch them and will continue to publish followups when notable new information is available.

26 Replies to "'The Hole' followups: Read the ruling; see who's tracking its safety"

  • Baba November 18, 2010 (5:06 pm)

    I only speak for myself, but my interest in this story is pretty much exhausted. I personally consider “The Hole” a part of “the new normal”
    To feel it up, imho, is utter stupidity and if it will ever happen I’m moving to Enumclaw.
    Can we get a bailout or something?

  • Baba November 18, 2010 (5:48 pm)

    I only speak for myself, but my interest in this story is pretty much exhausted. I personally consider “The Hole” a part of “the new normal”
    To fill it up, imho, is utter stupidity and if it will ever happen I’m moving to Enumclaw.
    Can we get a bailout or something?

  • I. Ponder November 18, 2010 (5:58 pm)

    We need a lake!

  • miws November 18, 2010 (5:59 pm)

    Thanks for this update, WSB.


    As I mentioned in the Comments section of the previous article, I’m very grateful to Judge Craighead for addressing the erosion concern. Only thing is, I’d almost prefer that she just flat out order it, instead of trusting that a firm hired by the site owner would have the public’s best interest in mind.


    I also have concerns that, if I understand the article correctly, two City agencies appear to be able to call the shots as far as enforcement. I’d hate to see a situation where a backfill is delayed, and possible cave-in, either because each department thought the other was “taking care of it”, or conversely their “egos” get in the way, and they fight over whether or not the backfill needs to be done.



  • miws November 18, 2010 (6:02 pm)

    “We need a lake!”


    But wouldn’t a person who ponders be pondering a pond? :lol:



  • iggy November 18, 2010 (6:30 pm)

    Let’s fill it in and get some trailers to put on the site and lease them to Hancock Fabrics. Sure miss them!!!!

  • clark5080 November 18, 2010 (6:42 pm)

    Stock it with fish

  • CitizenR November 18, 2010 (7:25 pm)

    I suppose people have lost interest! BUT if you lived near this “hole” you would be worried about your house too!!! But, hey don’t let it bother you any if you have nothing to loose!

  • Baba November 18, 2010 (7:59 pm)

    Do you have any idea how much did it cost to dig and shore this thing up? And they did a darn good job too, because”“The Hole” – the excavated Fauntleroy Place site at Alaska/Fauntleroy/39th – has been sitting there for two years, through the snowy winter of 2008-2009, the not-too-bad winter of 2009-2010, and the rainy-so-far fall of 2010…BUT… “SDOT also has their inspectors visit the site periodically. To date, things have looked good.”
    I understand, you are full of conspiracy theories, but even such a wasteful gov. spending opponent as me will agree to some sort of community center built by the gov. using taxpayer $ on this spot, rather then backfilling it.
    You, die hard liberals amaze me at times. You have no problem supporting the 99 week UE extension for people to watch “Dancing with the stars”, but you want to backfill the perfect example of “shovel ready” project.

  • JanS November 18, 2010 (8:13 pm)

    baba…let me know when they start filling it in…I’ll have some moving boxes for you. Seriously…if you’re “exhausted” re: this topic, then skip over it?

  • redblack November 18, 2010 (8:23 pm)

    considering how much discussion there is of developing the triangle and how best to incorporate transit, some enterprising individuals could buy that land and use the excavation for it’s intended purpose: parking.
    run buses overtop of the parking garage and add a modest commercial strip for commuter comforts, and you’d have a nice transit center.
    someone – maybe the city – could be sitting on a gold mine.
    baba: like cowboy bob said when i was a tot: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  • Baba November 18, 2010 (8:24 pm)

    jans, Now you are just using your friendship with Tracy, if I ever wrote something like that, it would never be posted…

    • WSB November 18, 2010 (8:35 pm)

      Guys, will ya stop? Baba, FYI, I have no “friends.” There are some folks here who have been reading and commenting on WSB a long time, both frequently and infrequently, and have come up and said hi on occasion – mostly when we table at street fairs and other events – Jan is among them. We are honored that some people have been part of WSB for so long, and we know there are others who have too but have never commented, said hi, whatever, it’s not a prerequisite for visiting the site.
      Patrick and I are not only non-social people – until we started doing this for a living, despite having been in the community for 15 years, we knew pretty much nobody – we have no time for it even if we were; tonight we’ve covered three events/meetings between the two of us and that’s fairly typical. I’m publishing your accusation in order to refute it, and the personal stuff from all sides needs to stop. Meantime, regardless of who says it, suggesting that someone not read a topic in which they have declared no interest is acceptable, and those comments surface from time to time. As I’ve said ad nauseum, certainly the stories we cover aren’t all going to be of interest to all readers. Same goes with any news organization’s coverage choices. – TR

  • Arianna November 18, 2010 (8:38 pm)

    This is the best outcome we could have hoped for at this point. Judge Craighead is our hero! Some developer will get a good deal, and there will be at least some probability of progress. Hope Whole Foods comes back on board.

    First we lost the monorail due to some incompetent as#*&^@, then instead of a Whole Foods flagship store we have a disaster – we love this neighborhood, and it could have been that much cooler.

  • chas redmond November 18, 2010 (10:07 pm)

    And, as the judge pointed out, at this point, the “hole,” the work done so far on excavation and temporary shoring, is basically the only asset. To fill it in would be to destroy the only existing real asset. The judge was admonishing everyone to act quickly to secure both the safety of people and property and to preserve the sunk equity in the project (no pun intended). Both are in imminent peril.

  • Greg November 19, 2010 (9:26 am)

    What no one seems to have addressed so far is the safety issue for vehicles on adjacent roads. Pedestrians have the fencing, but a car would pass through that chainlink fence like a fog bank with fatal consequences. The DOT would not leave an cliff edge on a city street without a guardrail. This is no different. I would like to see the judge order some kind of barricade built until construction begins again, or the backfill is complete.

  • WS native November 19, 2010 (9:53 am)

    I am surprised that no one has already driven into the hole. Eventually, we will hear of a drunk or distracted driver not negotiating a turn and going into that hole. It needs a better barricade, near the corner especially.
    @WSB- you have done a great job keeping WS updated on this project.Thanks.

  • Greg November 19, 2010 (9:56 am)

    Kudos to Erica. The “sidewalk width” excuse is weak. Even a temporary barrier is going to be expensive for Madison Construction to build. I suspect they would like to delay that expense for as long as possible. I’m surprised the city has let this very dangerous condition persist for so long. Couldn’t the city build a barrier and drop another lien on this property? I have witnessed the DPD nitpick extremely minor safety issues at residential construction sites. To let this slide is just stoopid.

  • Whole Hole November 19, 2010 (10:33 am)

    Its important to remember that the best scenario for the community would, in deed, probably be for a nice new building to be built there and not for an empty lot to sit there. I suspect that a similar foundation on the same property would be unstable unless it shared the same footprint.

    I think we should hang tight, be happy that there is a judge looking out for the community’s interest, and be glad that $1 M is being held in bond to fill in the whole hole if a financier/developer doesn’t step up.

  • NicePerson November 19, 2010 (12:23 pm)

    WSB should do a review of the utilities in this corridor…. as if these walls go, a significant portion of West Seattle will be significantly affected, if the loss of the walls affects electric or gas.

  • ericak November 19, 2010 (2:01 pm)

    Greg and WSB – I spoke further with Stan Lock, our Neighborhood District Coordinator, about this issue this morning. He will be alerting the mayor of this important safety concern and the communities efforts. The mayor will be in West Seattle on Dec. 2nd. Please consider coming to this open meeting to raise this issue again. The city does need to step in – our efforts with Madison have not resulted in action on this item. Hope to see you then.

  • redblack November 19, 2010 (8:32 pm)

    niceperson: not to mention the water and sewer lines, which are stupidly embedded in arterial road beds.
    the foundation of the w.s. bowl is also at stake.

  • NotMe November 20, 2010 (11:48 am)

    There is a nice big “twin” hole on Stone Way, and it’s been there for many years. Get used to our hole. The legal wrangling will continue, just like the one on Stone Way.
    I don’t think anyone has ever driven into the hole on Stone Way.
    Let’s all bow our heads in any form of prayer that Baba moves to Enumclaw – regardless of filling or leaving the hole intact.

  • Brian November 21, 2010 (1:00 am)

    I’m willing to start a pool on when will the first drunk crash through the temp fence and either die from the 4 storey fall or drown in the puddle

  • RDR November 22, 2010 (8:45 am)

    Great follow up WSB.

    I too was concerned that no one was keeping an eye on the temporary shoring. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that there was a bond in the City’s possession, and that the judge recognized public safety in a civil matter.

    We have to remember a couple of items. It is in the city’s best interest for this property to have thriving businesses because it will result in more revenue collection. In addition, government moves very slowly (when compared to private business), so barring a failure in the shoring we should not count on the hole simply being filled in any time soon.

    That said, does anyone know the type of soil that is in that area of the junction? If it is the type of soil that like to slide (e.g. Alki) then we should raise our concerns when the mayor comes around.

Sorry, comment time is over.