West Seattle development: 37 units proposed at 4400 SW Alaska; 1st Design Review meeting set for June 27

The west edge of the heart of The Junction is suddenly a hot spot. Less than a block from the 40-unit project at 4535 44th SW that passed Early Design Guidance earlier this month, a similar-size apartment building is proposed at the corner of 44th/Glenn Way/SW Alaska. This project at 4400 SW Alaska (map) would replace the 72-year-old brick multiplex in the top photo, along with an adjacent duplex. The city website shows it is proposed as a five-story building with 33 “residential units” above four live-work units, and six parking spaces. City records show the project is being designed by West Seattleite-owned Nicholson-Kovalchick Architects, as is 4535 44th SW, though the ownership is different. The developer for 4400 SW Alaska, according to documents filed with the city last week, is Isola Homes, which is completing the nearby Junction 5 “rowhouse” development at Glenn/Oregon. The newly proposed building at 4400 SW Alaska will require Southwest Design Review Board approval, and the first meeting has just been scheduled for 8 pm June 27th (Senior Center of West Seattle, California/Oregon).

44 Replies to "West Seattle development: 37 units proposed at 4400 SW Alaska; 1st Design Review meeting set for June 27"

  • old timer May 28, 2013 (12:41 pm)

    I know this issue can not be addressed by the Senior Center event, but I can’t help myself.
    I do not think it right that zoning and development issues that will affect our area for decades are being based upon the existence of a transportation ‘system’ who’s level of service is being determined by ephemeral funding source(s).
    These buildings are being built without parking provisions because there might be a bus for the occupants to use in the future. IMO, WRONG.

  • Michelle May 28, 2013 (1:12 pm)

    I thought I was reading this wrong – 6 parking spaces for 33 units – that is unbelievable no matter how good the public transportation system is….

    • WSB May 28, 2013 (1:29 pm)

      The latest revision to city rules removed the requirement for parking if what’s considered frequent transit is nearby. The other project we mention in the story, 4535 44th SW, with a similar unit count, will have none, at last report. Even the 150-or-so-apartment building that went to Design Review last week, 4745 40th SW, apparently does not HAVE to have parking, but the developers are building .7 or .8 of a space per unit. The planner listed for this project is Lindsay King, according to the city website, and assigned planners can accept comments at any point in the process before a project gains final approval (and this one has JUST hit the system) – for any aspect of it, including parking – lindsay.king@seattle.gov – TR
      Also, as I think we’ve suggested before, it’s an issue you might want to bring up with elected officials, especially as they come up for election/re-election – the mayor’s race, for one, is on the ballot this year – whether you want to voice concerns, support, whatever.

  • michael May 28, 2013 (1:13 pm)

    I agree with Old timer. This building in West Seattle adds to the congestion that all will experience for decades. We are a fuel driven society. I need my vehicle for work. Can’t do without it.
    Stop the building and congestion madness. We do not have the infrastructure to support it. Getting in and out of West Seattle is already very difficult. What’s the point of having more housing if the city can’t support it?

  • DTK May 28, 2013 (1:28 pm)

    West Seattle has jumped the shark.

  • CanDo May 28, 2013 (1:29 pm)

    I agree… We do not have the infrastructure to support the continuous building of new housing units. This is completely out of control.

  • Mac J May 28, 2013 (1:32 pm)

    Call me optimistic, but it seems possible that adding residents with a vested interest in good bus access could be seen as a way to cement better transit planning for the area. “If you build it, they will come”, right?

  • brian May 28, 2013 (1:46 pm)

    Ballard, here we come!

  • koni May 28, 2013 (2:02 pm)

    This kind of poorly thought out increase in density is what is making my family plan a move out of west seattle in the next decade …. it makes me sad to see our neighborhoods become canyons of apartment buildings with crowded streets because there isn’t enough room for parking and increased traffic loads.. transit planning is obviously not going to be able to keep up as we have already seen ;(

    • WSB May 28, 2013 (2:27 pm)

      So how should density should be handled? I wish we had been doing this when the neighborhood plans were drawn up in the ’90s, but I was working in regional news at the time, and not paying attention to what was happening back in my home community … too late to change that now, but it means I don’t have a lot of context. Nonetheless, overall, if you look at the maps, West Seattle has relatively huge stretches of single-family zoning. The development is happening in and around the central commercial areas – The Junction/Triangle, Admiral, Morgan, which, for better or for worse, were laid out as urban villages back then, and are just now starting to develop. Is it that there is some other area of the city, close to downtown, that isn’t being built up enough? Or, what would be the preferred way to add more housing to this area? Compared to neighborhoods even closer to downtown, what’s happening here is relatively low impact – there is no zoning above eight stories. What we never get to talk about is how to bring more jobs over here so people really could live a car-free lifestyle without even having to worry about whether the transit system will have funding/capacity problems … the crux of concern about population growth seems to focus on the fact this remains a “bedroom community” so people have to get in and out, but what if that weren’t as much of an issue? Thoughts? – TR

  • East Coast Cynic May 28, 2013 (2:14 pm)

    It’s more likely that the new residents will be told where the nearest Rapid Ride bus stop is rather than be provided with any sort of improved transit planning.

  • sc May 28, 2013 (2:50 pm)

    I’m glad I have a functioning driveway :)

  • Kelly May 28, 2013 (2:59 pm)

    I would love to have a job in West Seattle, but it’s hard to imagine that I could do my particular line of work anywhere but Downtown or at a very large company. We try to spend our money in the neighborhood as much as possible, though.
    I do rely on public transit to commute in-and-out of the neighborhood and it works wonderfully for me! Our car sits in the driveway most days, waiting for “fun” trips.

  • QQman May 28, 2013 (3:15 pm)

    37 units, 6 parking lots, this project was surely designed by some kind of genius. BTW, when are they going to improve traffic in/out of WS? As far as I know you take the bridge or go south to get out of here, and the bridge is already a mess in the mornings, sooooooooooooo, what’s these geniuses plan for packing all those extra cars? This kinda stuff should not be allowed. It’s not like there’s a huge demand for housing in WS. These geniuses and their greed are going to create pure havoc and chaos in a not so far future.

  • old timer May 28, 2013 (3:18 pm)

    As you point out, it would be great if there were enough jobs in West Seattle that paid enough for the workers to live in West Seattle. But, we can’t all be involved in service (food, retail, grooming) and make that happen.
    We need to have some value added business here, places that make/create new products that we can exchange with the rest of the world to gain income to sustain ourselves.
    Maybe some artisan food growing on our large single-family lots, maybe some bespoke clothing being crafted here, specialty preserves, vinegars, condiments, mixed and bottled here. Does all hi-tech have to be located @ SoLakeUnion?
    All we need is a vision of us existing as a community without the damn bridge! Of course, there are lots and lots of folks who are very content with the employment/transportation/living arrangements they have, and they will no doubt be cool to any such thoughts.
    I don’t really know, but I do not like the city, which IMO views us as somewhat of a PITA, issuing decrees that are bad for us as a community and that are based on flimsy financial foundations and limited community inputs.
    And I consider meetings that have their outcomes already printed in the agenda, and which cut individual testimony time when too many community members turn out to speak, to be a non-solicitation of input, but rather a bureaucratic tactic to fulfill some point on a job description.

  • Mac J May 28, 2013 (4:17 pm)

    @WSB More jobs in WS would definitely help offset the effects of growth on our various transportation systems. People seem to think the only jobs that can exist in our neighborhood are low-level service sector jobs like food service or human/pet grooming. We do live in an era, however, where working outside of an office or starting your own business is increasingly plausible, especially with how much of Seattle’s job and population growth is due to our healthy tech sector.

    Complaints about not enough parking seem short-sighted to me. Per capita miles driven are the lowest they’ve been since 1995, especially for young people like me. More people want to move to city neighborhoods like ours, and fewer want to own cars. It’s particularly disingenuous to me that people complain about additional traffic on the bridge when housing with fewer parking spots is proposed. The car to resident ratio is headed down, not up.

    What concerns me, as a 20something who has lived his whole life here (excepting some college peregrinations) and would like to buy a home and start a family here, is the resistance to even small steps toward increased density I see from many homeowners here, some of whom almost certainly haven’t lived here as long as I have. Seattle’s population is growing, and unless housing supply grows in accordance I could be priced out of ever owning a house in the neighborhood my wife and I grew up in.

  • Parking H*ll May 28, 2013 (4:26 pm)

    Thank you, Mayor McGinn and the city council. Thank you, very much. LOL

  • wetone May 28, 2013 (4:30 pm)

    Don’t forget a couple lots to the north on 44th they are putting in the 28 or so micro apts on that 3800 sqft lot with no parking. This building boom in the junction and surrounding areas is out of hand for the roads we have and if you have to leave the area for work good luck. Just think with what they have built in the last five years and what they are planning for the next five you have well over 5000 more people in this area and parking as said the city requires little if any in these areas. The scary part is the city really has no clue to what they are allowing to happen and how many people are moving into this area. If you don’t believe me go to some of the city meetings, you will get a sad laugh. The only thing that will help is a new high (non opening) bridge for a light rail system, buses and maybe bikes and how will they pay for it get ready for TOLLS, just like 99 tunnel. The bridge we have now was never designed or has the capacity for rail unless you took a lane of traffic away. What happens if we ever had a bridge failure ?
    Families will start moving out of the area as it will be to costly and time consuming for them to live here. People need to start getting involved by attending meetings or writing letters to the city and say we have a problem here.

  • NeighborMom May 28, 2013 (4:43 pm)

    This is one reason I’m intrigued by the idea of council members representing districts. So we can hold someone’s feet to the fire and fight for light rail. WHY is our community being left out of this mass transit solution? I’ve only loved here 7 years — did I miss something? Did the failed monorail prevent us from seeking light rail?

  • cjboffoli May 28, 2013 (5:23 pm)

    GASP! A future in West Seattle where we can’t all drive ourselves around (alone) in over-sized private cars and park them for free within ten feet of our destination?! Quelle horreur!

  • enough May 28, 2013 (5:48 pm)

    WS jumped the shark when it started trying to be like Ballard around 2005.

    I hate to say I told ya so but …

    Looking back, it has been frustrating to try to point out a future problem (where we are now with transportation and congestion) only to be told I was a NIMBY or worse.

    It’s great to see so many people up in arms over this density issue but I’m afraid it’s too late.

  • Mac J May 28, 2013 (5:51 pm)

    @cjboffoli I know, right? I’m surprised there hasn’t been a revolt against the Car2Go’s taking up all the parking.

    • WSB May 28, 2013 (6:40 pm)

      Mac – we have had a few Car2Go complaints, but nothing has turned into a story yet.

  • wetone May 28, 2013 (6:02 pm)

    Funny how people move to an area then want to change it to fit their personal life style. Good thing you don’t live in my hood, you might not be able to sleep at night since I have 4 cars a motorhome oh ya a boat, and to top that I even have a nice yard with a big garden that gives me a fresh salad and more every night. life is good and I enjoy :)

  • Peter on Fauntleroy May 28, 2013 (6:27 pm)

    People seem to be missing the fact that the urban villages were created to limit density and preserve single family neighborhoods, which they are doing, and very successfully. I strongly disagree with those who oppose density in the city because the alternative is to force people out to the suburbs, where they then live in more energy demanding housing and have to have a car to get anywhere whether they like it or not, thus polluting our air and consuming more energy in the process. I’m frustrated by the attitude of West Seattlites who think that since they live here, nobody else should be able to live here, that’s absurd. Also, all those of you driving cars on the bridge and complaining about traffic, the cause of the traffic congestion is in you mirror. Go look in it and reflect on the costs of your choice to the environment and society.

  • datamuse May 28, 2013 (6:57 pm)

    Plenty of single family housing in the rest of West Seattle.
    Plenty of parking, too.
    Has it occurred to ANYONE that a higher density of residences will encourage more businesses, i.e. employers, to locate this side of the bridge?
    “It’s not like there’s a huge demand for housing in WS.” No? Looked at the rental market lately? I have friends–longtime Seattle residents–who are moving away because they can’t afford an apartment in this town. No demand for housing? Really?

  • T. May 28, 2013 (7:24 pm)

    As a native to the Pacific Northwest, it seems to me that the only people who want density are from someplace else. People come here for our way of life. Or so they say. Then tell us what’s wrong with this place and how to fix it. We need to have a voice in our urban plan. Now it’s being dictated to us by those who stand to profit from thoughtless development. Not those of us to have to live with it.

    • WSB May 28, 2013 (8:00 pm)

      … accidentally added this on another thread:
      Discounting the opinions of those who weren’t born here means excluding most of your neighbors. We’ve “only” been here 22 years. So we don’t matter? Only our West Seattle-born 17-year-old son does? Everyone’s from somewhere else unless you are directly descended from the First People. Having been born here doesn’t give you any more of a say than somebody who moved here recently. If you live here, you live here. And living in an apartment doesn’t make you worth any less than living in a house – most of us started our adult lives in rental housing; many people rent all their lives. PLEASE let’s stop the divisiveness and accusations and resentment. Let’s find some solutions to the core of the problems – most of which seem, so far, to be transportation-oriented. … TR

  • Mac J May 28, 2013 (7:52 pm)


    As a native to West Seattle, it seems to me that the only people who don’t want density are from someplace else. They move here and want it to stay just like they found it.

    This isn’t (entirely) true, but this isn’t a simple natives vs. outsiders issue. As a native who is afraid of being driven out by rising housing prices I think it’s important to provide more housing opportunities here, lest West Seattle turns into boring, rich, old Magnolia by those afraid of change.

  • I'm an old person May 28, 2013 (8:08 pm)

    West Seattle jumped the shark in about 1980, if you ask me (which no one did)

    Pity about that brick multiplex. Those buildings are becoming fewer and far between.

  • QQman May 28, 2013 (8:40 pm)

    @datamuse, if your friends can’t afford the rent on an old beat up apt, will they be able to pay rent for a brand new one? I don’t think so. The fact that greedy owners want to bleed renters dry is a different story. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t seen many demands from the public for more housing in WS because they have an imperative need to move here. As mentioned before, we needs more jobs in WS not more concrete monuments to greed.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident May 28, 2013 (9:37 pm)

    If the city wants to allow the building of apartments that do not have parking there is a SIMPLE solution to this.
    ANYONE who rents a unit MUST sign a lease that has a clause that: they do not, will not or intend to own or buy a car.
    That the ONLY method of transportation will be by bus, taxi, bike or walking.
    If it is found that they do own a vehicle, they will be evicted and forfeit their deposit and last months rent.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident May 28, 2013 (10:00 pm)

    Has it occurred to ANYONE that a higher density of residences will encourage more businesses, i.e. employers, to locate this side of the bridge?

    It’s a two edged sword for businesses and density. Yes density does mean more people, but if it gets to the point where that density causes congestion and parking problems they start to lose customers.
    It’s a fine line between the two and the city planners are doing a POOR job of maintaining it.
    I used to go to the junction weekly, but now my trips are much fewer because of lack of parking and congestion, esp. on the weekends.
    I avoid Downtown like the plague because of it and adding to it is the HIGH cost of parking when you can find it.

  • Westside J. May 28, 2013 (11:24 pm)

    I’m on both sides of the fence.. On one hand, I really hate the idea of WS becoming more of a “downtown” or belltown sort of area with tons of condos and townhouses. I LIKE that its mostly single family houses, even if that means it turns into a “stuffy old magnolia” or however it said said above..

    On the other hand, more housing theoretically makes it easier to buy here, which is a bit of a moot point for me, I’d like my kids to have a yard to grow up playing in thats NOT in the showdown of some big condo monstrosity, and a family house to grow up in and come home to from college during the holidays.

    I like that people want to live here and I understand why. I just want to know when the sardine canning is going to level off.

  • Westside J. May 28, 2013 (11:28 pm)

    AND!! You elitists who think its wrong for people to want to have thier own cars need to get off your soap box. If I want to drive around in my car, thats my deal. You ride your bike, the bus whatever, I don’t fault you for it. BUT IM SICK AND TIRED OF BEING TALKED ABOUT LIKE A BURDEN OF SOCIETY BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO DRIVE. It absolutely has to stop.

  • STEVE May 29, 2013 (1:50 am)

    We’re all from somewhere else… Or at our people are… Capital hill is fantastic and west seattle is headed there. Tons of people adjust and live there in a city! Last I checked west seattle is a part of a city.

  • STEVE May 29, 2013 (1:56 am)

    Does the seattle times comment so much? I looked at the comment about people from somewhere else and went right to comment but you beat me… iOl idiot out loud:)

  • T May 29, 2013 (3:14 am)

    Everyone on this blog needs to read this book:
    Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate by Lisa Prevost
    The real crime of these greedy thugs is the lack of affordable housing. This is driving out people who want to live in WS, but can’t because of soaring rental prices.

  • ryan May 29, 2013 (6:00 am)

    I encourage people to pull up a zoning map of West Seattle. There are only a handful of areas that are zoned for this type of density (Admiral Junction, Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction, and The Triangle). Additionally there are more pockets that allow for townhomes and row houses. However the vast majority of West Seattle is zoned for single family homes. The areas mentioned above will all eventually get built-out to their highest and best use based on housing demands. It seems as though people might believe you can build an 8 story building anywhere you want…it is not true. West Seattle will never turn into a Capitol Hill or Belltown because the zoning simply won’t allow that much density besides the few pockets that allow for it. I can tell you one group who does love all this new construction and that is the small business owners in the Junction. They need and want more people through their doors.

  • george May 29, 2013 (9:46 am)

    Solution: Lets expand the WS Viaduct to 6 lanes to ease access on and off 35th/Fauntleroy. Its about to collapse anyway, so lets expand it.

    And even if there are less cars per capita, increasing the baseline capita does result in a net increase in cars. So bring all your arguments about more people taking the bus, unless they also ditch their car, net car use is growing, not reducing (only on a per capita basis).

  • wetone May 29, 2013 (10:26 am)

    The zoning map is great but remember the city is always changing the requirements for what will fit in that zoned area. Such as required lot size for single family homes allowing many homes in this area to be torn down and replaced with two. Look at 4735 40th SW project up zoned in the last four yrs. How about the new microhousing or lofts (always changing the name) just saying the developers are much smarter than the city is right now with what’s going on.

  • JAT May 29, 2013 (10:56 am)

    Uncommonly high level of editorializing from WSB with their anchor-baby today (smile-emoticon)

    Trouble is you can’t advocate for transit oriented development without offending those who feel they can’t live without their cars – and that’s most everybody. (probably including me, though I so commute by bus and by bike when I can)

    And once you’ve offended them it’s constructive dialog-Over. – I’ll just say one thing: don’t blame McGinn – he hasn’t been in office that long; you might was well blame General Motors…

  • Hank May 29, 2013 (11:54 pm)

    Hmm maybe with the increased density I can actually enjoy my next visit to redmond. Whoops I meant west seattle.

  • dcn May 30, 2013 (8:59 am)

    You can’t stop development, and at least it’s happening where it should–near the central commercial areas. And I don’t think adding some more businesses to West Seattle, even if they only hire West Seattlites, could ever offset the growth of people who need to commute elsewhere to work.

    So the real thing to fight for is the infrastructure to handle the traffic congestion, which seems to be at the heart of many people’s complaints with the development. We need reliable transportation to downtown, and buses will never be that, since they are subject to many of the same traffic woes that cars are (with the exception of the bus lanes).

    The community should be pushing hard for a light rail line to downtown. The monorail was a fiasco. I voted for that thing so many times, even though I lived in a part of Seattle at the time that would never benefit from it. The people who were determined to see that idea go down were persistent enough to succeed. We need a rail line to downtown that connects to the other light rail line(s). When the 99 tunnel is finished, the traffic is only going to get worse again.

    Finally, I’m not sure it was General Motors that was responsible for the paving over of Seattle’s original rail network. Wikipedia has some interesting history regarding that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_in_Seattle.

Sorry, comment time is over.