(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.