After 7-year reprieve, Charlestown Court again facing demolition for site redevelopment

Going through the city’s development files, we discovered another building with history is back in queue for demolition and replacement: The Charlestown Court Apartments at 3811 California SW (map).

We first wrote about the brick Tudor fourplex in 2007, when a mixed-use building was proposed to replace it. A landmark nomination ensued, and while it was deemed not worthy of landmark status, a new development proposal that emerged in 2008 would have raised and preserved the 1920s-built complex’s facade.

2008, of course, was the year of the building bust, and the new plan went nowhere; the apartments have stood as-is ever since. Now, we find an early-stage proposal to tear them down and replace them with eight townhouses. The proposal – attributed to a Snohomish County firm – appears to have been in the city system just a few weeks, so no formal comment period has opened yet.

SIDE NOTE: Charlestown Court is right across California from the former Charlestown Café, where a 30-unit development of townhouses and live-work units is planned and makes its Design Review debut two weeks from tonight.

49 Replies to "After 7-year reprieve, Charlestown Court again facing demolition for site redevelopment"

  • Diane January 9, 2014 (7:18 pm)

    OH NO!!!!!

  • Westseattledood January 9, 2014 (7:29 pm)

    Sorry Snoho developer but…yuck you (X8).

    Don’t I recall WSB posted drawings of preserved facade back when? I recall it was rather lovely…
    Edit: Yup. Just followed the link and the original revision was gorgeous, appropriate and appreciated by many as the same.

    What a shame. Unless the developers do something reflecting talent, integrity and a sense of place… A bit far-fetched no doubt.

  • supernova72 January 9, 2014 (7:50 pm)

    Too close to home–Not like.

  • dsa January 9, 2014 (8:23 pm)

    Wow! The earlier 2008 design would be very welcome.

  • 35this35mph January 9, 2014 (8:30 pm)


  • JanS January 9, 2014 (8:35 pm)

    a friend was just telling me today about a drive they took through the Sammammish Hills. Beautiful gated communities, parks, houses, and not a fast food place or a town house development anywhere.

    Where are architects graduating from these days. Everything we’re getting in development in the area is boring, boxy, same ol’ same ol’..why can’t things still be modern inside, yet be classy, stylish, unique on the outside. Everything just seems ordinary to me, like, oh, it’s West Seattle, outward appearance doesn’t matter. They all look alike. Do they even come to our community first, look around, and even try to design something that would fit in? I don’t see it. They don’t care :(

    Pete Seeger comes to mind….

  • ttt January 9, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    I really liked the look of that apt building. Too bad it will probably be replaced by a box building…

  • Alphonse January 9, 2014 (8:49 pm)

    After having a look at the website of Gamut360 Holdings, I’m guessing they’re planning something that will bear a striking resemblance to any Quiznos or Starbucks in suburban Anywhere. Did they have a contest to find the worst possible group to replace an architecturally interesting structure? You can’t even blame this one on the density gods – 8 units replacing 4.

  • Diane January 9, 2014 (9:00 pm)

    it’s not necessarily bad architects; it’s lack of architects; especially for cheap projects; no architect is required

  • Jamjets January 9, 2014 (9:10 pm)

    Very sad to see this iconic property torn down!!

  • Greta January 9, 2014 (9:11 pm)

    How depressing. Demolish everything with history and character, replace with generic sterile designs with huge “modern” windows that the birds will just poop all over. Ugh. And why do the “modern” million dollar glass box homes never have curtains? Does anyone value privacy anymore? Harrumph!

  • savoirfaire January 9, 2014 (9:12 pm)

    This makes me pretty sad. I’m not anti-density when it’s done correctly, but when we were first house-hunting in West Seattle one of the things we loved about it was the mix of housing types, and those courtyard apartment buildings are especially appealing. Seems to me we could use more of them, not fewer.

  • Bsmomma January 9, 2014 (9:23 pm)

    I really hope these beautiful, original (gasp!) and classic brick units stay!!! Pretty soon the “originals” around WS will become “vintage” and those properties wil be worth more…….right? :) While I am all for changes, I do not support demoltion and re-build of a classy neighborhood. Sad. :(

  • K'lo January 9, 2014 (9:46 pm)

    Oh no! Here we grow again!!!!

  • DM January 9, 2014 (9:55 pm)

    The Snohomish County firm’s web site looks like fast food design and construction. So sad.

  • Seattlite January 9, 2014 (10:02 pm)

    Please don’t demo these classic tudor style apts. The unclassy, cold, boxy, flat-liner homes/apts going up are totally devoid of any class. I wonder when all the flat roofs o these boxes will fail in Seattle’s rainy weather.

  • Mike January 9, 2014 (10:09 pm)

    JanS, you obviously have not been the the Eastside in a while, especially Sammamish or Issaquah.

    “Beautiful gated communities, parks, houses, and not a fast food place or a town house development anywhere”

    You described a very very tiny fraction of Sammamish. If you continue up I-90 and take the exit after Front. St. you’ll land in the old MSFT development project where MSFT then decided to not place a new campus. It’s literally thousands upon thousands of apartment buildings, condos, townhomes and then in the very back, 3,000 sq/ft homes 8′ from each other with a park smaller than any park we have in West Seattle. I fear that’s the idea some of these developers have for West Seattle. Luckily land here costs more than there and you can’t clear cut and plop down an entire neighborhood within a couple years here.

  • JanS January 9, 2014 (11:01 pm)

    I didn’t go, Mike…a friend of mine was telling me about it. And we’re talking about two different places…and, you’re right…I have no need to go to the eastside, thank you very much…

    So…from what you said, I don’t quite get whether you like this development here or not…

  • Jason January 9, 2014 (11:01 pm)

    Hopefully we’ll get something unique, maybe a series of blocks with some corrugated metal siding.

  • BJ January 9, 2014 (11:05 pm)

    Please, no more ugly metal boxes!! I go past this place every day and take pleasure in it…such depressing news.

    • WSB January 9, 2014 (11:22 pm)

      No design packet for the project yet – it appears to be seeking Streamlined Design Review, which is an administrative process without public meetings (but there would be public comment) – however, the architect listed for the project does appear to specialize in the currently prevalent modern mode.

  • iggy January 9, 2014 (11:51 pm)

    Amazing. So many new housing units and no plans to increase public transportation or improve roads. Soon we’ll be like Tokyo and hire “people pushers” to cram everyone onto the RR.

  • Mike January 9, 2014 (11:57 pm)

    JanS, we’re talking about the same region. I grew up on the Eastside, was there before the big development boom of the mid 80s. Lived on the Eastside when dairy farms dominated the region. I don’t care for the way developers take over and cut, drop and run off. I don’t live over there any longer for a reason. Traffic on the Eastside is awful. At least West Seattle is setup on a grid, we can bypass road traffic if need be. We can also walk around our neighborhood. Many Eastside neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks. Gated neighborhoods were popular in the initial development of large homes in the 1985 era, they then spawned into gated communities surrounding golf courses.

  • Gini J January 10, 2014 (12:03 am)

    So sad. I adore that sweet site. I love looking at it every time I drive down California. I do not like how our West Seattle has changed. We are losing our charm. I wish I was rich, I would buy up old precious buildings like that one. We are running out of beauty here.

  • Alphonse January 10, 2014 (12:48 am)

    I love modern architecture. I also love other styles of architecture. Judging by what this developer specializes in, this historic complex won’t be replaced by modern architecture, it will be replaced by a slapped together thing that looks as if it should have a drive-through window. As Diane said in her comment, no architect required.

  • T January 10, 2014 (2:48 am)

    Why West Seattle, why?!

  • Diane January 10, 2014 (3:29 am)

    thanks for the link; explains a lot; one of the founders is another Pb Elemental alum
    more generic “modern” boxes

  • life long west seattle peep January 10, 2014 (7:24 am)

    well this is just disgusting and sad…cant they just relocate the property? they are so fabulous…i wish they stop builidng so much BS in west seattle…..taking out/down fabulous business and homes…leave ws alone now please.

  • Rick January 10, 2014 (8:24 am)

    As always,it’s about the money. Developers/city. You know,like when the city continues to grant permits for the 30-100+ unit “sleeping rooms” with no parking (because they won’t own cars) are on “frequently scheduled mass transit routes” that are being eviscerated in West Seattle. Oh, how vibrant!

  • Kravitz January 10, 2014 (8:57 am)

    If the proposal has only been in the system for a few weeks with no formal comment period as of yet, then it’s up to us to try and save this property. Instead of posting all of our gripes about the new development plan and how ugly the modern boxes are that are sprouting up everywhere, let’s actually show up, in person, and have our voices heard when it comes to things that are important to us and our little slice of life in West Seattle. Using WSB as a sounding board is great to get some of our frustrations out about the changes we are seeing, but ultimately doesn’t result in change. It’s very passive. Show up at the development and planning meetings. Spend five more minutes writing a real letter to the developers, owners, city officials – whomever, to have your voice heard. It would be sad to lose this property to 8 new rectangular pods. Let’s think collectively about what we can do as a community to prevent it from happening.

  • Kittyno January 10, 2014 (9:11 am)

    Is there anything that can be done? I don’t want to dictate what’s done on private property, but I also don’t want to lose another historic building along the main drag.

    We don’t have that many buildings of interest along California. West Seattle is rapidly losing some much needed visual history that gives the neighborhood its character. The lovely one story and two story brick buildings along California are one of the reasons we moved to W. Seattle. Had it been lined with condos (like the proposed ones) we would have bought elsewhere. Maybe Greenwood.

    Are there precedents in other neighborhoods in Seattle where there are stricter development guidelines along main roads? It would be nice if we could do a better job preserving that small neighborhood vibe, yet at the same time support development.

  • CanDo January 10, 2014 (9:31 am)

    What Kittyno said… Is there a way to find out when this project will open for comments and any way to protest this? Those apts are classy and have a lot of character, which I’d hate to see disappear like a lot of the West Seattle style is disappearing these days. On Alki there were some interesting brick buildings that the developers retained and upgraded in order to keep the look, while adding on upper stories. Retaining character and adding stories can be done in a thoughtful way, without always tearing down and replacing with boxes.

    • WSB January 10, 2014 (10:00 am)

      CanDo, that’s entirely up to the developer/owner. I prowl the system for things that have NOT gone to application yet as well as things that have, and sometimes I’m only a couple weeks ahead of the formal process (as in the 6917 California “no parking” apartments), sometimes it’s months ahead (like the North Admiral apartments, 1606 California, that are now set for Design Review in March, but we reported first word back in October). There are no requirements for “if you get something initially in the system, you must apply within X.”
      Regarding the bigger picture – we have reported several times that local volunteer community leaders have been exploring a possible survey of what’s left on California Ave that might be “worth preserving.” I’m checking on the status of that project now and will likely write something separate. – TR

  • Anonymous January 10, 2014 (9:43 am)

    No no no no no! It breaks my heart whenever I see a brick building being torn down.

  • McBride January 10, 2014 (10:15 am)

    There are ways to get involved. Writing letters is good stuff. At a time when our individual city council members have suddenly become Very interested in hyper-local events, dropping a line to Tom Rasmussen is more likely than ever to land you an advocate.
    Even more powerful, is to join and support a group already doing this work. You have likely been told that all feedback is treated equally, but Nothing speaks louder than a strong physical presence. Align yourselves with a group, and support them in person when they present at these hearings. The Morgan Community Assiciation (MoCA) has powerful advocates in this particular arena, start there. Regarding development and traffic concerns, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition is hosting a forum next Tuesday with elected officials at Youngstown, attend that event.
    Rise up, folks. The world is run by the people who show up.

  • pupsarebest January 10, 2014 (10:21 am)

    Question: “Why West Seattle, why!?”
    Answer: $$$$$$$

  • junctioneer January 10, 2014 (10:24 am)

    Sadly, California Ave is increasingly becoming something to be avoided. Avalon is far worse, but at least we have both Beach Drive and the 35th-37th-Hanford arterial route to get north/south.

  • sophista-tiki January 10, 2014 (10:48 am)

    Once again greedyass real estate development trumps everything in Seattle. VERY SHORTSIGHTED. All of this over development and shoving more people in only benefits the people involved in making money off the deal. Instead of raking in maxinmum bucks for yourself by ruining yet ANOTHER neighborhood with crappy design buildings that all look the same, why not preserves some of the older architrecture. THAT IS part of what makes a city interesting and desirable. Pretty soon NO single family homes will exist here . it will be all multi story boxes that block the light from the sky, provide no parking, ( because magically NO one will have a car- dream on!) and you will all be crawling on top of each other like rats. I am not opposed to improvements and development. I am opposed to it taking over every square inch of available space while sumultaniously destroying perfectly good elements of the past in the name of greed for just a handfull of developers who have the city in their pockets.

  • LeavingWS January 10, 2014 (12:08 pm)

    And the demolition of WS continues. What a lovely old building. It seems that the attitude these days is old=bad, new=good. Not so.

  • Dee Veloper January 10, 2014 (1:31 pm)

    @sophista-tiki – Hyperbole alert! I own a house in West Seattle. It’s not for sale. So there you go – there will be at least one house standing.
    Change is already happening in W. Seattle… The WSB does a great job of posting how you can get involved and help shape it. Stop whining on here and get off your computer or smartphone and get involved. If you don’t – you have no credibility to run your mouth.

  • jg January 10, 2014 (1:33 pm)

    Do you like sitting in traffic on WS bridge?Avalon? Harbor Ave? Admiral? It’s only going to get worse. WAY WORSE!
    Do you like visiting the junction and finding a parking space?
    Build build build but neglect transportation infrastructure.
    ps my wife and I did a road trip on a fire road out on the coast. The road (in the middle of the forest) was smoother than anything we drive on here….potholes and all. Hmmmm.
    Screw the roads lets build condos and stadiums. That will sustain our economy in the next economic downturn…..right?

  • vincent vermicelli January 10, 2014 (11:52 pm)

    What about the people already living there?

  • WSB January 11, 2014 (1:08 am)

    Vincent – There are city laws for what kind of notice renters are supposed to be given.
    Lots of general renters-rights info here (there are also independent organizations) ..
    If a low-income tenant is displaced for development, there is a specific rule:
    Dee – Thanks for the compliment but you have no way of knowing whether Sophista is or is not involved. I don’t know them personally but on occasion I’ve seen folks who I know are VERY involved post here with rants you might consider whines … and accusing them would be almost laughable, if you had context on what they have been involved with. The advice to get involved is great. I’m always thrilled to see community meetings, about any topic, standing-room-only, and to hear about people sending e-mail, calling, proposing alternatives. But it doesn’t save someone from every so often just needing to vent. – TR

  • Megan January 11, 2014 (12:44 pm)

    I used to live in one of these apartments. The building is pretty run down and we were discouraged from using the central heating because of the high cost of oil. So we had to use space heaters and ran really high electric bills. I’m not opposed to tearing it down but it would be nice to replace it with something with a little character.

  • dawn P. January 11, 2014 (1:03 pm)

    Yes, Sammamish Hills is a very nice community!

  • LVBebe January 13, 2014 (4:50 am)

    Agreed with Megan – while the old apartments look beautiful I live near here and frequent past them; the building is not kept up and rather run down. While I believe that the new construction should be with character that fits into the neighborhood and isn’t an eyesore I’d rather have a complex that is clean in my neighborhood.

  • redblack January 13, 2014 (7:34 am)

    megan: sounds like the owner is looking to let the place get run down – maybe as an excuse to demo the old building. if it was my building, i would fix the systems, convert to natural gas, replace windows, upgrade electric and comm services, add outdoor living space, improve the landscaping, and generally make upgrades that today’s renters would pay better money for – while preserving the character of its architecture.
    but i don’t own the building. and not being restrained by landmark status, the owner can do as he or she pleases (within development guidelines and laws, of course.) and evinced by the story, the owner isn’t interested in the surrounding community or its opinions. most likely, he/she/they will fight any community “meddling” in what they do with their property.
    not saying it’s right, mind you, or that the community shouldn’t voice its opinion; but it’s the law of the land.
    i don’t envy the rich, but there are times when i daydream that i had the money to buy property from others to prevent this exact sort of thing.

  • Jc January 16, 2014 (10:52 pm)

    Maybe I’m missing something, but this comes looks like a sad old funeral home. Not at all a property I’d be concerned about replacing. Especially since, judging by the comments of people who used to live there, it’s not very well kept.

  • JSV January 24, 2014 (1:14 pm)

    I was shocked to see the building that I CURRENTLY
    LIVE IN is up for demolition. Good thing I check the WSB since the current tenants have not been notified that such actions might take place. This building is a charming place with character and history!

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