Followup: 4724 California (ex-Petco) development-plan details

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If you have something to say about the proposed apartment/retail development for the ex-Petco site at 4724 California SW, the development-team leads want to hear it.

So insist Chris Rossman and Matt Corsi of Urban Evolution, who spent almost an hour and a half talking with WSB this afternoon as a followup to our Thursday story breaking the news that this development is in the works – albeit in the very early stages, with the city webpages we mentioned last night little more than placeholders..

They already have been reaching out (quietly) to local groups such as the Junction Neighborhood Organization and the West Seattle Junction Association, to find out what people want to see in the development.

Ahead, what we found out, but first, who they are and how the proposal came to be:

WHO OWNS THE SITE: The property is being purchased by The Wolff Company, a Spokane-founded, family-owned firm. It’s been under contract, Rossman and Corsi say, since late last summer, but the deal will not close until they get to certain points in the process ahead – guaranteeing the project can be built. Wolff is spending its own money – no lender/partner involved – and intends to hold this “in perpetuity,” not build it and flip it. And they say a “significant amount of earnest money” already is involved, so they’re not working on spec. Wolff, they say, has been moving out of suburban projects to focus on urban projects, recognizing that “people are moving into the cities.” And since the project/prospective owner is “fully capitalized,” Rossman says, “You won’t see any stops and starts with us” (as in, no Hole II).

WHO’S URBAN EVOLUTION? Wolff actually didn’t know about the site till Corsi and Rossman, both Queen Anne residents, brought it to their attention. They say they had been working last year with a particular broker on another possible West Seattle development site that wasn’t working out, when this one came up. The broker told them it wasn’t officially for sale “but could be,” with Petco moving out last November. And things progressed from there: “We loved the location.”

Their role is to be the “boots on the ground” for the project. They met in the University of Washington‘s commercial-real-estate-development program but both had experience in the industry. Corsi said that during his 20 years of working as an engineer, he was involved with many much-bigger projects (such as the baseball and football stadiums), but they want to work on “meaningful neighborhood infill .. Our goal was to find a great piece of property, a fun project, provide some density where density will be going, where it’s zoned, so we put the project together.”

This is their firm’s first project, but they’ve known each other a while.

WHAT DO THEY PLAN TO BUILD? They say there are no renderings yet, and the outline on the city website – about 100 units, possibly up to a fifth of them live-work – is just a rough draft of their ideas, as submitted to the city in the “pre-application” process. They are not expecting the 5,000 or so square feet of retail space to be taken by one tenant. And the live-work units might not be in the traditional “first two levels” format – they might be over the street-level retail, for example, perhaps on the second story. They say they have been listening to community advocates’ requests – many familiar from the discussions involved with the Equity Residential (ex-Conner) project further north on the block, such as “don’t put the residential entrance right on California.”

As we surmised from online information yesterday, they are ONLY working with the ex-Petco building, on its existing footprint – adjacent properties are not involved. (The only one they had looked at, they said, was the dental building to the north, but in the end, it didn’t work out “timing-wise.”) They hope to “create a unique, interesting scale” that can be “sensitive to adjacent properties … it’s an opportunity to make that block unique.” Corsi said the midblock crosswalk next to the property creates “an opportunity for really cool retail” while “right now there’s no street presence (with the ex-Petco site).” Their vision for the California SW frontage could include something “really engaging, open, transparent, with high-ceilinged retail, something that will glow at night, something you can see by day.” They’re wondering if there would be any sense in a “midblock passthrough” like the one planned on the California/Alaska site.

What about recurrent concerns that new retail space will be priced too high for independent local businesses to occupy that “cool” space? While not guaranteeing low rents, they said the retail space itself isn’t meant to be its own profit center in the project – “not just another line item; we look at it as an amenity to renting the units above” – implying that rents might be more affordable than you would guess. (Speaking of affordable rents, we asked if they, like some other local developers, planned to apply for the city’s Multi-Family Tax Exemption; while not ruling it out, they didn’t expect to, since “this is going to be a perpetual hold.”)

What kind of apartments do they expect to include? They haven’t settled on the mix yet, but have heard that two-bedroom units have been very popular, with waiting lists at many other developments, since the market otherwise is “dominated by one bedrooms and studios.”

PARKING? As mentioned on the city webpages, they expect to have underground parking. Under new city rules, they point out, the development is not required to have any parking – but “people are going to drive cars, and we can’t get around that.” The ratio will likely be around .8 space for each unit – so if it’s 100 units, 80 to 85 spaces. The live-work units, for example, might be occupied by people who don’t need cars since their commute will be a matter of steps, and the neighborhood outside the building has so many businesses within walking range.

‘NO DEPARTURES’: They expect the proposal will follow city code – which means no “departures,” or variances from the code, that would have to get special approval. It also will not require a street or alley vacation; the Equity Residential/ex-Conner project did, because the planned underground garage beneath both its buildings is to veer into city right-of-way below the alley, so that means this project will not have an extra layer of SDOT/Seattle Design Commission vetting required, as that one did.

WHAT ELSE DO THEY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT? They realize many people are concerned with the “bulk and scale,” but would like to hear other “unique tidbits” about how the building could engage with the neighborhood. One local advocate, they mentioned, pointed out that under its previous ownership, Mural – immediately east of this site – had offered short-term “vacation” rental units that had been popular with people, since West Seattle remains short on lodging. We noted comment discussions about West Seattle’s lack of flex-work spaces.

WHAT’S NEXT: They hope to have their first Early Design Guidance meeting – the first of at least two Southwest Design Review Board meetings, as stipulated by city rules – as soon as late May. If everything moves as they hope, with a Master Use Permit granted by the end of this year, construction would begin about this time next year.

HOW TO SHARE YOUR OPINION: The website we mentioned last night,, has an e-mail form – and they’re reading what they receive (they had been reading the many comments on Thursday’s WSB story, too). They insisted, repeatedly, they want to hear it all – “I love discourse,” Corsi said – so if you have something to say, don’t hesitate. Corsi has been involved in neighborhood advocacy, as a member of the Queen Anne Community Council, so he has seen development from both sides – he recalled a “heated, intense neighborhood … process” involving a QFC store, which “wound up positive, not so adversarial … the developer got to do a great building because they understood how the neighborhood functions.”

Right now, they are seeking that kind of understanding here. While those who are mourning the impending loss of more single-level commercial space might not agree, they believe their project can be an enhancement of, not a detraction to, the “Main Street” aspect of The Junction, as the heart of the “big thriving neighborhood” that is West Seattle. They “think we can add something here that is of good quality.” Adds Rossman, “It’s one of the proudest neighborhoods in the city, with a distinct and defined identity, and people who buy into that and take pride in it, in who’s doing business, who’s supporting it.”

Even if you are skeptical, they hope to win you over. “(Development is) going to happen,” they say, but “we’re here to say ‘what works? how can we retain the character? bring in retailers you want to see, make The Junction more successful and more appealing rather than sterilized” – as they believe it would be if a national megadevelopment company were doing this, instead of a small Seattle firm like theirs.

Watch for a “fact sheet” to go public next week.

41 Replies to "Followup: 4724 California (ex-Petco) development-plan details"

  • Walnut April 20, 2012 (4:38 pm)

    Regardless of your personal opinions on this project, hats off to this group for coming to the table with what appears to be open ears.
    Much appreciated from this WS resident.

  • Elizh April 20, 2012 (5:09 pm)

    I live directly behind the petco building, and a seven story building will completely block my view of Puget Sound and the neighborhood. I would be better off covering all my windows with plywood because I would then have some privacy across the remaining alley air shaft.

  • Nitro April 20, 2012 (5:19 pm)

    Thanks WSB for getting this information out to the public so quickly and in such a thorough manner. We appreciate all of the hard work you do for our community!

  • Single Family Neighborhood April 20, 2012 (5:22 pm)

    Indeed. There used to be many ‘mom and pop” grocery stores throughout West Seattle. Guess what? They were abandoned for Thriftway, Safeway, and now Trader Joes. Yes, indeed. People complain ad nauseum about the West Seattle THEY know and love, losing its character. And the same complainers clamor to Costco, and Trader Joes. Their complaints mean NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

    LOL at the complainers who don’t put their money where their whining is focused.. HeHe

  • Bob Dobbs April 20, 2012 (5:25 pm)

    I currently live in The Mural (and I’m trying to get out). There is a reason that building was recently sold and the tenants are fleeing in droves. This is a terrible idea that is destined to fail. If they ever manage to finish construction, they will surely sell as quickly as possible… all the bars, noise, traffic, restaurants and trash pick-ups in that area make it a horrible location for apts. and there is no way it will prove to be profitable judging by the rapid tenant turn over at The Mural -so West Seattle will be left with a 7 story building that no one wants to live in or own.

    Do these builders plan on living in these apts?

    Of course not.

    Do they currently live in the area?


    Do they have ay idea what they are getting into by attempting to place a 7 story apt. building here… five feet from another 7 story apt. building?

    You tell me.

  • Single Family Neighborhood April 20, 2012 (5:36 pm)

    Yeah, Bob. They are systematically building New York City in front of your eyes.

  • J April 20, 2012 (5:44 pm) is part of the city of seattle, they also ‘tax’ all junction businesses. They’re the ones quietly helping to usher in this kind of development. Be careful trusting these “organizations” that would have you believe they’re looking out for our community’s best interest.

  • Smitty April 20, 2012 (5:54 pm)

    I love it when people who live in buildings that blocked SOMEONE else’s view complain about a building that will block THEIR view.

    I also like it when people say that they moved to West Seattle to get away from it all, but gosh darn it, nobody else can!

    Good stuff.

  • Ben Dover April 20, 2012 (5:59 pm)

    They’ve come with open ears because despite what the public says, the odds are in the developers favor. It’s called patronizing. Other developers have come to the table in the past and still proceded as planned. It doesn’t mean anything. Their just trying to smooth it over. Not their first trip to the rodeo.

  • JanS April 20, 2012 (6:06 pm)

    ElizH…sadly, that happens to a lot of us. I live directly across the street from the new Element 42 apts. behind Admiral SAfeway. I look out my deck door and see…into the apartment across the street…No more sunsets, nothing. It’s the chance we take…

  • jwws April 20, 2012 (7:08 pm)


    unless you buy waterfront ( or on the top of the highest hill in WS) this is what happens when development moves in.

  • Alki Area April 20, 2012 (7:33 pm)

    How about we stop with the 3 story buildings that block the views of folks in the 1 story buildings. For crying out loud…if you’re REALLY concerned about “all this change”, put your money where you mouth is and give West Seattle back to the native Americans! West Seattle used to be a forest. Now it’s full of NIMBYs who don’t mind we took the land from the natives, plowed down the forest, built one story cabins, then 2 story retail, then 4 story apartments…and THAT’s ok (because you live in the 4 story appartment) but how DARE we suggest building a 7 story building. That’s crazy talk! (sigh). Live is change. If we’re going to be more dense (and we will, doesn’t matter if you like it) we SHOULD OF COURSE build in the main dense junction with the most transit we have. It just makes simple common sense.
    True ‘urban’ apartments are noisy. Some folks like that. Some folks like that urban life living (ie. Manhattan) where there’s a 24hour store downstairs and you can walk to a dozen restaurants, while others wants quiet suburban split level ranch (ie. Queens). If you move into an apartment in Belltown, Capital Hill, Pioneer Square, or the Junction, then complain about noise, that’s just a little naive. If you want “quiet” as your main issue, move to Bothell, or the back side of Redmond. But moving to 4th and Union and complaining about the noise is just as silly as moving to Bothell and complaining that you can’t walk to a Broadway show.

  • Ray West April 20, 2012 (7:51 pm)

    It’s useless buying view property because someone will always find a way to build in front of you. I’m convinced developers will soon start building homes on floating barges in front of waterfront property.

  • ex downtowner April 20, 2012 (7:55 pm)

    Hopefully there will be worked in to these plans, step back buildings so the Junction won’t look like a canyon.

  • Husky April 20, 2012 (7:58 pm)

    Just call us Bellevue West. Oh well, maybe something worthwhile will come in. Yogurt shop.

  • J April 20, 2012 (8:11 pm)

    TR, while the WS Junction Assoc. may not be officially part of city of Seattle, they have made it known that if a business doesn’t pay their “assessment” then they’ll be reported to the city of Seattle. They’ve been having secret talks with (or have been quietly reached out to by) the developer and have not brought this out to the community or the local businesses. One has to wonder what this little organization’s agenda is.

    The description of a BIA: “Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are special assessment districts that are established to revitalize
    and enhance neighborhood business districts.”

    I guess the question is, are they helping to revitalize and enhance the junction? What is their role in this type of thing? I mean don’t get me wrong, we all appreciate the hanging fuchsia baskets.

  • quiz April 20, 2012 (9:34 pm)

    This is a prime location that will have a huge impact on the WS junction. I think it’ll be fine as long as it very high-quality construction.

  • Mike April 20, 2012 (9:45 pm)

    Let’s just burn the entire junction to the ground and build Hong Kong here, that would be awesome. While we’re at it, let’s just kick everyone who bought homes around the junction out and tell them ‘sorry sucka, you ain’t got the politicians in your pockets like the developers do…muhahahaha’.
    At what point does the ‘growth’ stop and the reality set in that it’s a bad idea to expand like this plan is setting out to do? I don’t know if anyone had seen the machinery used to dig holes for underground parking garages, but you’d be hard pressed to get one to fit between the apartments behind Petco and much less are you planning to block California Ave SW in the Junction while you dig a hole for a few months? REally?
    As for Dr. Yi’s office space next door, I hope Dr. Yi either tells them to piss off or gets a hell of a deal on new office space.
    There are so many current vacancies for living in apartments and condos in West Seattle it’s sad. We’re quickly turning into Ballard, where you can’t give away a Condo due to the vast vacancies. This is not South Lake Union, Amazon is not expanding here, Facebook is not putting their Seattle offices in West Seattle. Did you see what happened to Beacon Hill when Amazon moved their HQ? They are not moving into West Seattle people… they are moving to South Lake Union. That’s where condos make sense right now, not here. Are the small businesses along California Ave going to pay employees enough to pay rent in these new apartment/condos? Can the local baker across the street live there, can the waitresses working in restaurants along California Ave SW afford to live there?.
    Give me a break, this PR garbage makes me sick.

  • natinstl April 20, 2012 (10:20 pm)

    I would rather all these developers get rid of those ugly Huling buildings before they start turning the Junction into high rise central.

  • Liberty Bell April 21, 2012 (12:49 am)

    J – you should really research information before you make broad statements. The West Seattle Junction association is only connected with the city because state and city laws that established BIAs make it so. The city collects and distributes the assessments paid by the members. By law, the city is the collection agency. The city keeps track of who pays and who does not. The city initiates action against any business who may not be paying the assessments required by law. It is not the Junction Associations role to police this. The Junction Association was established to improve the business district. You comment on the flowers baskets (by the way, not Fuchsia in them) as all they do. Well, who do you think pays for all the FREE parking lots around the Junction? Have you ever been to SummerFest? Ever wander through the Car Show? Ever attending the holiday tree lighting? Maybe you haven’t, but thousands of people attend these events ever year. Guess what… they are all products of the labor and finances of the West Seattle Junction Association and it’s members. Oh yeah, have you seen the Junction Plaza Park??? Guess who is responsible for that happening?
    In addition, the WSJA funds the cleaning and maintaining of the business district, including graffiti removal.
    I am proud to say that I was elected and served for 12 years on the Junction Board. The Junction management or board never. in my tenure, had “secret” talks with anyone. Yes, they do their best to work with new developers. The goal is making the end product as well as construction work well for current businesses, local residents and the developer. There is no agenda here. So basically, your are looking for a conspiracy where there is none (so don’t call Mulder & Scully). The Director of the WSJA is one of the most moral and trustworthy people I know. “Secret” talks are not her way of doing business.
    Basically, the WSJA does a lot for the Junction community and everyone who visits it. However, most of this goes unnoticed. But if they were not there doing their role, you would notice it when you don’t have a place to park or are walking on filthy streets!

  • derrick April 21, 2012 (2:34 am)

    I’m just glad that ugly petco building is going to be replaced by a more dense development. I’m not sure why people are so fond of an ugly 1 story building, that they come on here and whine about it. Guess what people, if you don’t want to live in a city with large buildings, just do us a favor and more to the suburbs

  • Bligs Mander April 21, 2012 (5:32 am)

    So most people are complaining about this project an the long term effects. But I’d like to know how we stop it dead in its tracks from even happening? We have enough activism in W Seattle to be able to come up with something to kill this project outright. Suggestions?

  • Sue April 21, 2012 (5:44 am)

    I think the biggest issue I have with all the apartments they’re building around here is that they are all “luxury” apartments that are significantly more expensive than what rentals are/were in the surrounding area. I live somewhat close to the Junction in a rental house. I just looked at an apt. for rent on Craigslist at both Mural and Link: 1/3 of the size of the house I rent, and yet costs $150 more per month than I currently pay in rent. My rent is in line with the other houses on my block, so it’s not like I’ve got some sweetheart deal. But if landlords realize that people are willing to pay crazy money for apartments here, all rents are going to go up. And we’re going to have a lot of vacancies while people move to less expensive areas.

  • Mike April 21, 2012 (7:46 am)

    Derick, another idea to fit into the feel of West Seattle is to reface the current 1 story building and remodel the inside. YOU might live in the part of the city with a lot of big tall buildings (Belltown), but I don’t. I live here and bought my home here many moons ago. I bought here because I like the feel of being close enough to enjoy what the city has to offer, yet not live in an area full of tall buildings like Belltown. As for the cost of rent, I’m looking to buy another house in West Seattle and rent my current one, so financially it’s a great benefit to me if rent goes up by a factor of 2 or 3 or 8 or 15. All the more money for me right?
    Maybe we need to start thinking about what types of other businesses can come here rather than adding more vacant living spaces. Build to make the West Seattle community a place people want to come shop, eat, enjoy. Work to make Alki safer and more enjoyable for all people. Bring back the feel of Seattle and not just build to build.
    How about we do add but integrate some local history/culture. Get the Duwamish tribe involved. Work with Eddie Vedder, Chris Ballew and Easy Street Records to mix in the local music scene.
    Just dumping a 7 story building in the middle of a street with 1 story buildings only looks like a phallic symbol. Might as well permanently park Grave Digger out front while you’re at it.

  • LStephens April 21, 2012 (7:49 am)

    Great response Liberty Bell. Many people have absolutely no understanding of the time, effort or money involved that it takes for all of the great West Seattle events, the appearance of the business areas and yes, the beautiful flower baskets.

  • Jiggers April 21, 2012 (8:00 am)

    Vote NO on all the property tax levies on the August ballot. If they all pass, rent goes up sharply. Which one is it going to be?

  • ZS April 21, 2012 (8:27 am)

    The city will have too many apartments. The Times actually had an article on this so this new dev isn’t going to help. And since there is no real estate recovery on the horizon, a conversion to condos will not be an option like they did in the 2000’s.

    So if it makes you feel better I envision mamy of these developers going bankrupt. Of course we will be stuck with derelict buildings.

  • Someguy April 21, 2012 (8:33 am)

    it seems like a 7 story building would block light on California Ave. Just like the condos near Than Bro’s. And is West Seattle trying to be Ballard?

  • J April 21, 2012 (9:42 am)

    @Liberty Bell, Junction Plaza Park, is that the one where all the folks who live in the surrounding apartments take their dogs to poop? Guess we should make a little more room for that activity.

    My point is that the junction businesses pay for all those lovely things you’re talking about, and if they don’t play along they get in trouble by the City of Seattle as you said (remind you of anything?) So now we have yet another little government-assisted organization all our own who we’ve been led to believe is looking out for the best interest of the community.

    It’s not a conspiracy, however the article did mention the developer has quietly reached out to these groups and it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss their roles. I think it’s important for those who are forced to contribute to know that it stops at parking, flower baskets, and clean up and they have no interest in the desires of the community when it comes to new development.

    Perhaps there’s room for yet another junction-related organization that helps steer the direction of the area based on the desires of the individuals within the community, but unfortunately the City of Seattle wouldn’t be their collections agent since it would operate outside the confines of their agenda.

    • WSB April 21, 2012 (10:15 am)

      J – that would be the Junction Neighborhood Organization, whose leaders have knocked themselves out in the past couple years with meetings, cleanups, organized discussions on hot topics … we publicized it here … and that was only one of many ways they did their best to get the word out … few people showed up. If Erica (its president) hadn’t stayed involved, NO ONE would be representing residents’ interests. NOBODY. But if more people get involved, then there is a diversity of opinion represented by the neighborhood group. If you’d like to get involved, look for a contact address on – TR

  • J April 21, 2012 (10:29 am)

    Thanks TR, sounds like a great organization, I’ll contact them and see how I can get involved.

    I would hope anyone in the area who wants to discuss their feelings about this issue or others will do the same.

    It’s time we all stop being so soft and start putting in the hard work it takes to keep our community from being victimized by outsiders who don’t care about anything other than their own profits.

  • Matt April 21, 2012 (2:09 pm)

    Within two blocks there are, what, five buildings that are 5+ stories. Did the sky fall after each one’s construction?

    I see the changes in the junction, and I think they are all pretty exciting.

  • Erica April 21, 2012 (2:55 pm)

    TR – Thanks for the kind words. J – JuNO would love more residents to get involved. Myself and another JuNO member met with the parties involved in this site on Thursday, and almost every site that has been developed in the past 7 years I have lived in the Junction, and we do our best to represent the views of the residents. The more people that are involved, the more opinions, suggestions and concerns we can bring forward. JuNO only functions when people get involved, so please feel free to reach out to me at erica at wsjuno dot com. I welcome your involvement.

  • NotMe April 21, 2012 (6:06 pm)

    I think the original article said to bring your gripes and whiny-ness to the developer. Not sure why people are wasting “ink” here on a blog. When you don’t show up to their meetings, nothing will change.

  • bob April 21, 2012 (11:22 pm)

    Embrace and accept growth and change and stop having all this discussion, the past is past and the future is now. Is all this pontificating getting old or what? another discussion group…”how Seattle” just embrace growth and change and mvoe forward West Seattle needs to grow up, it could be so much more. I am moving on to a place where people ‘DO” not “Discuss”. Does blah blah sound familiar?
    Good luck to you all…

  • Grace April 21, 2012 (11:46 pm)

    One of my favorite things about our neighborhood & the WSB is that we all love our neighborhood and are passionate about it. But it seems like most of the comments on this are missong sight of the contents of the article. The developers arent asking whether we want a new building or not (and they shouldnt have to, they now own that property and honestly I think we should be thankful it wont be a vacant eyesore in our beloved junction). And if these developers didnt buy it, someone else would have and may not care what we want enough to meet with neighorbood orgs & the WSB. And if its been zoned for 7 stories, they had nothing to do with that decision & it makes sense to make the most of their large investment.
    What WAS asked for in this was WHAT we would like to see be added before the design is even created. Thats a great gesture and an opportunity to use our passion to make the most of inevitable change. (and let’s face it, if we hadnt just gotten one, and a Trader Joes was proposed here, but with 6 stories if condos, would we fight this as much?)
    As for my input, I like the idea someone mentioned about short term vacation rentals (and i’ll be the 1st one to book one for my inlaws!) I also would love to see a place where we could meet up with friends and kids over 5 could be entertained on rainy days, maybe a restaurant with video games like Proletaroat Pizza or a large play area with fun toys and board games. And I have no doubt if we all move this from pro vs. con of an inevitable change and more to creative use of the space, we might have some new places we never thought we needed!

  • J April 22, 2012 (9:16 am)

    I don’t know how much the developers are going to be able to dictate which types of businesses will make their homes in the retail space(s), though I’m guessing it will be pretty valuable real estate.
    Maybe we’ll get the gap or old navy or something like that in there.

  • sun*e April 22, 2012 (10:54 am)

    @Smitty – that truly made me LOL!

  • artsea April 22, 2012 (6:14 pm)

    It seems that when one of these 5-7 story apartment/retail high-rises go up in the Junction, the retail space is taken by really boring businesses like Accounting offices and such. Check out just north and south of the main shopping areas of California Ave. Hopefully, this one will rent to businesses that we might want to shop at…considering it’ll be in the heart of the shopping area.

Sorry, comment time is over.