West Seattle development: What’s (not) up with 5020 California

(WSB photo from September 2011)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

As we continue working on an overview of major under-construction-and-impending West Seattle development, we are checking on individual sites, and have finally connected with a representative for the project that’s been known for five years as Spring Hill, at 5020 California SW, just south of The Junction.

Spring Hill was initiated in 2007 by BlueStar, the original developers of Fauntleroy Place, former name of “The Hole” (now known, under new ownership, as Spruce West Seattle).

BlueStar took Spring Hill all the way through Design Review, with final approval in September 2008. Then the project stalled (as did, more notoriously, then-Fauntleroy Place) and went to a foreclosure auction in 2009.

Last year, a Burien-based firm, F & M Development, bought it. Last September, they demolished the three vacant, vandalized multiplex buildings on the site (top photo). We tried repeatedly to reach them for comment and got no reply.

Then last week, a building permit application appeared on the city Department of Planning and Development website. That led us to try again – and this time we received a reply.

Turns out that the property is being managed for F & M by Indigo Real Estate Services, perhaps best known in West Seattle as the former property manager for the relatively new mixed-use developments Link (in The Triangle) and Mural (in The Junction). Indigo was replaced at those properties after the buildings were sold earlier this year during developer Harbor Properties‘ merger with Urban Partners). Debbie Manon of Indigo talked with WSB by phone on Monday.

Manon says that the permit application is not a sign that construction is imminent. The first priority for F & M was to clear the site, continue to paint over graffiti, etc., and now “they have been working to not only look at the plans that were there when purchased, but to make sure that whatever is … eventually built is a true fit for that neighborhood.”


By “fit,” she says that in particular, F & M is thinking the property should be “more residential” than originally envisioned (it was designed and approved as a mixed-use building with ground-floor retail – the night-view rendering above is from 2008). It’s still planned for 101 apartments (revised last year from the original 90), she says, geared toward “second- or third-time renters,” people who “rent by choice” – maybe even some live-work included. They’re still working with the original architects, Hewitt.

The big hurdle to clear before they get close to construction is financing — the owners are “exploring … options” right now, according to Manon.

But before they get close to having a date for groundbreaking and construction, she adds, “we would hold a community meeting to share the plans with the neighbors” – who were very vocal in the process of vetting this project the first time around. Manon does not think, however, the plans will be modified enough to require a new round of Design Review. “We’re just taking what was established before and customized and modifying.”

Asked to at least estimate a timeframe, she says nothing is likely to happen at the site before the end of this year. In the meantime, she says, Indigo is “super-excited about coming back to West Seattle” as the property agent for Spring Hill (still the project’s working title), having enjoyed the years they worked at Link and Mural.

The online file for the 5020 California project is here.

4 Replies to "West Seattle development: What's (not) up with 5020 California"

  • Deeno August 21, 2012 (5:10 pm)

    It’s wonderful to know that Spring Hill is still alive and well! Many have been worried about this property being undeveloped for too long, giving West Seattle a bad name as a community moving forward, developmentally speaking.

    Thanks to the parade of owners and developers passing along this project over the years, and for sharing with the locals our chance as well, to enjoy the property deteriorating in front of our curious eyes. It looks very ‘sculptural’ in the picture above. “Still life with Backhoe” comes to mind.

    The idea of ‘fit’ being a main criterion for the latest
    project inheritor is ingenius. Who would ever think of this as a motivator? The original 90 residential units was never enough of a ‘fit’ in the midst of a long time existing SF residential area, and I applaud the new idea for 100+.

    Why stop there though, let’s think really big! How about 120 or 130 units? I’m sure the city would approve on site parking for 1/4- 1/2 space per unit. With just a little more effort we could push the south Junction street parking on 41st clear down to Dawson, Brandon, or Juneau. Our own ‘Auto Row,’ Auburn, Fife, and Puyallup would have nothing on us then!

    After all, if the latest project is aimed at 2nd and 3rd time renters, I’m sure they will all ride the bus and take public transportation (a different bus) everywhere they go, especially when the parking meters make their way to the Junction.

    Curb your enthusiasm for now though. According to the above article, “The permit application is not a sign that construction is imminent.” WS now has ‘The Hill’ and ‘The Hole.’ Ballard has Shilshoe, We can call ours ‘HillHole.’ We are winning!

  • West Seattleite August 21, 2012 (8:21 pm)

    Hey, Deeno,

    Don’t worry. The Roman Catholic Church and the GOP are right on top of your concerns.

    Be fruitful and multiply, dude.

    Sister Prius

  • WSratsinacage August 22, 2012 (2:21 pm)

    hillhole, LOL.

  • Cls August 22, 2012 (9:02 pm)

    Well said Deeno!

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