See SDOT memo on The Whittaker’s alley-vacation request, one week before hearing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

We are now one week away from the project at 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW, now known as The Whittaker (previously nicknamed the Whole Foods project after its anchor tenant), going to the City Council Transportation Committee for a public hearing.

The public hearing, the date for which was set last month, is your chance to comment on the “alley vacation” requested by The Whittaker’s developers – asking for City Council approval of their potential purchase of alley space on the site, for their 370-apartment, 600-parking-space mixed-use project. It includes what some have described as a new private alley, a “midblock connector” through the project. In addition to paying what the city calls fair-market value for the alley space, developers are supposed to include a package of “public benefits” in order to gain approval.

With behind-the-scenes meetings and advocacy campaigns having been long under way, the hearing is shaping up as a showdown between project supporters and opponents; the latter most notably include UFCW Local 21, which funded a campaign called “Getting It Right for West Seattle” focused on raising concerns about the project, from Whole Foods’ pay scale to potential truck traffic. The project team launched a campaign of its own recently, including this website mentioned in postal-mail cards sent to people in proximity of the project.

The Seattle Department of Transportation reviews alley-vacation requests before they go to the City Council. Last July, you might recall, then-Mayor Mike McGinn told then-SDOT director Peter Hahn not to recommend approval of the alley vacation. The SDOT staff review was not complete at that time. It is now, one week in advance of the hearing, and we have just obtained it:

(The table/attachment referenced in the document is here.) In our first quick read of the 22-page document, we note that SDOT concludes that, “Should the City Council choose to support the vacation, it is recommended that the vacation be granted upon the Petitioner meeting” conditions laid out at the end of the document – you can see the long list of those conditions in the embedded document above.

We’ll be adding more to this story later this afternoon, and we’ll have a followup looking more closely at the campaigns focused on this proposal. Next Wednesday’s hearing is at 9:30 am in City Council Chambers at City Hall downtown.

46 Replies to "See SDOT memo on The Whittaker's alley-vacation request, one week before hearing"

  • Deb March 4, 2014 (4:14 pm)

    Thank you West Seattle Blog for posting this key document from SDOT while attending a murder trial.
    I’ve followed this proposed development for over a year now, and I find it ironic that that I continue to get relevant information about it from the WSB and not from the City – even though I am a party of record.
    Deb Barker

    • WSB March 4, 2014 (4:24 pm)

      Deb – If it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t sent to me proactively by anyone – I have been nagging Councilmember Rasmussen’s staff for months in hopes of catching it as soon as it arrived, and when I sent a note this afternoon, it had arrived less than an hour earlier. The trial, meantime, has adjourned early for the day and I’m sitting here in the hallway now thoroughly reading all 22 pages for some key points to pull out – didn’t want to hold the doc just because I hadn’t gone through it word by word – TR

  • enough March 4, 2014 (4:23 pm)

    I need a vacation ..

  • Deb March 4, 2014 (4:32 pm)

    TR – As always, your timely publication is ALWAYS so welcome and much appreciated. Have a good commute back to West Seattle.

  • Paul March 4, 2014 (4:37 pm)

    This is a good project and I hope the alley vacation is approved.

  • Krm66 March 4, 2014 (5:30 pm)

    On Facebook I have had the Getting It Right For Wesr Seattle as a suggested post. I have commented a few times to mention that they need to be honest and say that they are funded by the union. They have now blocked me from commenting.
    Hope they build the Whole Foods ASAP.

  • The Future's So Bright March 4, 2014 (5:45 pm)

    Can’t wait for this! This is just silly. WE get a chance to clean up a polluted gas station and UGLY unused space and put in a DENSE transit oriented community…YEAH!! And everyone loved Whole Foods when they came to town, and there was no massive “controversy” about them (downtown, interbay, 65th Roosevelt) but ALL OF THE SUDDEN Whole Foods is an ‘evil’ company we must mount a campaign to stop? LOL Why didn’t anyone stop the other Whole Foods in the area? Why didn’t I even hear anyone try seriously? Or did Whole Foods just turn into some evil company in the last 3 years? This will look SO much better than the nasty abandoned properties that have been there for years, right on THE major transit line in West Seattle, and encourage a dense walkable neighborhood (not more NIMBY sprawl). I can’t wait! I’m more annoyed with the wasteful silly “stand alone” drug store now planned across the street. EXACTLY what we don’t need. We can’t afford that waste of space, to pretend we still live in the Seattle of 1952…it’s 2014. Seattle is vastly bigger, and will be bigger yet in 25 years from now. We have to plan for reality not nostalgic childhood memories. It would be cute if West Seattle had some “population” limit in law and was a little Mayberry like small town, but it isn’t and hasn’t been for a long long time. Please lets keep the growth on the major transit lines SO it doesn’t spread more into the smaller neighborhoods.

  • Gene March 4, 2014 (6:02 pm)

    No matter who is behind it- the traffic issue- especially southbound on Fauntleroy is a valid one – you only have to look at the visual on Getting it Right for West Seattle- to see that. It’s an issue that needs to be considered.

  • GettingItRightForWestSeattle March 4, 2014 (6:10 pm)

    We are quite honest that UFCW’s members have paid for a few things including our new video illustrating reviews of the Weingarten proposal from transportation experts. The video has been viewed almost 3,000 times in just 2 days.

    UFCW’s members also paid for Dr. Sutton to design two project alternatives, using ideas and input from more than 300 people in our online survey.

    GIRFWS is a coalition of neighborhood groups, residents, WS businesses, and organizations including (gasp!) unions. Our letter raising concerns about this project has been signed by 500+. The 34th District Dems, Sustainable West Seattle, and the Morgan Community Association have all weighed in with concerns regarding this project.

    Finally, our Facebook policy says we will delete and then ban anyone who uses aggressive, profane or abusive language on our Facebook site. Polite discourse and civil questions are encouraged and answered as soon as possible. Check out the lively discussion happening there now.

  • Eaglelover March 4, 2014 (6:57 pm)

    To Those embracing rampant development:
    Do you have a stake in this? Not I’m against sensible growth in WS, however; it really seems to be getting unchecked. There needs to be a master plan that most residents can accept/agree on-some will oppose any change, but there has to be a better roll-out. I would venture to guess that most that moved here in the last decade or two came here to get away from what some money grabbing developers are doing while the city turns a blind eye on this-shame on them, small town trying to act like “the big ones on the block” sounds like Seattle gov.

  • joel March 4, 2014 (7:07 pm)

    $50 bucks says if it was a union anchor store going in this group would have no issue with this being built. the government has no business in deciding what gets built based on if the store is union or not….BUT then again around here politicians are put into office by them so bribes could be a part of the decision.

  • XXX March 4, 2014 (7:35 pm)

    That “Getting It Right” video was a study in hysteria and hyperbole. Scare tactics, pure and simple. A truck turning will block traffic? What about all those trucks delivering to Trader Joes, QFC and Safeway? Nobody is hysterical about that. Cars creating safety hazards? Where are they getting this? They make it sound as if all-out mayhem will result if this project is built.

    They weep about “better decisions out there” but never really get around to coming up with anything “better.” Oh, that’s right… A union grocery would be “getting it right.”

    What a sham.

  • West Seattle Seattle March 4, 2014 (7:39 pm)

    Well stated Eaglelover.

  • Krm66 March 4, 2014 (7:57 pm)

    GIRDWS- I never used profane or abusive language. Maybe someone asking you to be honest and upfront with how involved the union is in this is considered aggressive to you.
    I did see the pictures that were posted of accidents on that stretch of Fauntleroy. Nice touch to add those along with the video to try to scare people.

  • WestSidePorVida March 4, 2014 (8:01 pm)

    Gene, yes the Union’s video does provide an interesting visual. Take a look at the attached video link:

    I was concerned when I first saw this video. Turns out, the outcome was okay.

  • WS Native March 4, 2014 (8:06 pm)

    I agree with XXX. This is only the Union pushing there agenda. I read the deleted entries on their Facebook page, and they were only deleted because they were against the Union.

    I am so looking forward to this project and Whole Foods going in. It will finally be the start of a wonderful neighborhood.

  • P March 4, 2014 (8:09 pm)

    The Seattle Process. How long does this have to go on? Just build it already!

  • Brandon March 4, 2014 (8:27 pm)

    Road congestion already cripples West Seattle’s commute with or without this project. Let’s focus all this energy and commotion on something PRODCTIVE like building another way to get downtown (another bridge, light rail, etc.).

    I’ll see you all at West Seattle’s Whole Foods in a few months.

  • Paul March 4, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    The proposed tenant of a project shouldn’t be an issue in a street/alley vacation decision. The use, OK, but not the tenant. This building (and the alley vacation) will likely outlast Whole Foods.

  • chris w March 4, 2014 (9:01 pm)

    I agree, Paul. Separate issues.

  • AlkiGrl March 4, 2014 (9:06 pm)

    I’ve been opposed to this development since I first heard about it over a year ago and my position hasn’t changed. It’s bad for my community and absolutely doesn’t warrant us turning over our public rights-of-way, which the SDOT letter clearly states can only happen if a project is in the public interest. I have absolutely no idea how an eighth grocery store packaged in a giant, cookie-cutter bldg you could find anywhere else in Seattle is in the public interest. Get the trucks and cars out of the midblock connector and restore small retail shops along Alaska as the neighborhood guidelines intended, along with an upgrade in design and then I’ll be interested. Until then, I’m content to wait for something better. It’s a red-hot development market, we won’t wait for long.

  • Hmmm... March 4, 2014 (9:41 pm)

    Alki girl I hear your concern, but as someone who works in development I can tell you the next developers are already waiting for sure. Only they will build without the alley vacation ask because they will know not to ask for one and build up to zonning meaning 9 stories, which could be 600 units and no parking which is allowed by code. In fact the current developer could get rid of whole foods and just do that…..but if it doesn’t pass it will likely go to the next guys who have been watching and will do exactly that.

  • Hold on there just a sec' March 4, 2014 (9:43 pm)

    To the cynics:

    Go to the Whole Foods store in the complex at 65th and Roosevelt during the day.

    Traffic into and out of a steep bldg. ramp is relentlessly blocked by delivery trucks. I use to live up there and NEVER went during the day. There won’t be late deliveries in this complex because there are residential units requiring quiet hours.

    The community in Roosevelt realized too late that they were screwed over by the developer.

    West Seattle can put its foot down in advance. It’s the right thing to do because we can’t get the Fauntleroy traffic flow back once it is gone. It’s just piss poor design. It can be fixed. Not that big of a deal financially for a developer. So write the Council folks and tell them to hold on there a sec’ with this development as currently envisioned. Because the vision has no public benefits YET for West Seattle.

  • Steve March 4, 2014 (9:55 pm)

    Something needs to be built in that site but not the suburban cookie cutter mess these out of state developers are trying to cram down our throats. Hey people, read the letter. It’s a new Mayor, and a new SDOT Director, and they still are not recommending approval of an alley vacation for this project.

  • SteveP March 4, 2014 (11:01 pm)

    This alley is a dead end. How is this benefitting anyone the way it is right now?
    The entire block is blighted and it needs to be developed.

    The next time there is a union strike, I will be able to go and shop at Whole Foods, AND they are providing parking. Oh and I can go to Trader Joes too, as they are non-union also. This will make for a great entrance to West Seattle.

  • McFail March 5, 2014 (12:20 am)

    Cute video, it reminds me of the doomsday WSDOT video of the viaduct falling…Hope you didn’t pay too much for it. Who’s your traffic experts? I wouldn’t exactly say the letter does not recommend the vacation – it also says nothing about living wages and I don’t consider that as a “public interest”

  • Diane March 5, 2014 (2:51 am)

    this is NOT only the union pushing their agenda; there are many caring community members who have volunteered countless hours with GIRWS who are very concerned about traffic safety as it relates to plans for this project

  • Paul March 5, 2014 (7:34 am)

    @Hold on there… I’ve been to the Roosevelt Whole Foods lots of times during the day (weekdays) and have never been blocked by delivery trucks. You’re greatly exaggerating a non – problem.

  • enid March 5, 2014 (9:22 am)

    I’m against most of the development going on in WS right now, especially all the mega-apartment complexes with no parking or increased infrastructure included in the plans.

    That said, I think the Whole Foods project makes sense and the alley vacation is reasonable. It’s a huge improvement over what is there now, and the location is appropriately commercial. There are also plenty of businesses in WS that are non-union and treat their employees far worse than Whole Foods. I’m actually pro-union, but It makes no sense to single them out.

  • Sutton March 5, 2014 (9:33 am)

    For those of you who oppose due to traffic and safety reasons:

    Page 9:
    The Traffic Impact Analysis concluded that “with-project” traffic operations at surrounding intersections would remain at acceptable levels and are not anticipated to degrade in Level of Service (LOS), a measure of traffic congestion, from “without project” conditions.

    Page 12:
    The mid-block connection has been designed closer to the standards for a street than for an alley. While an alley in this zone would typically be 20 feet in width, this mid-block connector will include, at its widest point at Fauntleroy Way SW, a 5-foot sidewalk on the northern side and a 2-foot wide buffer on the northern side, a 25- wide drive lane for two way vehicular traffic, an 8-foot sidewalk on the south side and a 3 foot wide landscape buffer on the south side between the vehicle lane and the sidewalk.

    Quick math on second quote – that midblock connector on the east side is 43’ wide – more than twice as wide as the local alleys, and built for the trucks, cars, pedestrians, plants, etc. That’s a little nice streetscape, not an alley.

    I watched the new traffic scare video. It’s based in someone’s reality, but not the one outlined throughout this city analysis.

    These City Staff went out of the way to present a balanced report on the actual physical merits of the requested alley vacation, and they should be complimented on tactfully handling what has become a political load.

    There is no historical reason to deny this alley vacation – it has exceeded the public benefit standards the city required for a development just across the street, or the one up in the Junction. The project has been through more public scrutiny (as it should) than any other development in recent memory. After much effort, it’s passed through every hurdle of our vaunted Seattle development process to this point.

    For all of us:

    The real scare should be if this doesn’t get built, what do we get instead? Probably 3-5 more years of public process with a dumpy site. Then some other developer maxes out the height, builds +600 apartments (with no required parking), keeps the existing alley just to save $, sells the thing for a tremendous profit when they are done and walks away from West Seattle…

    I’ll take this project. Let’s go!

  • GettingItRightForWestSeattle March 5, 2014 (10:14 am)

    The video is accurate and based on the traffic analysis conducted by the Tilghman Group:

    “In light of the number of large trucks that could serve the grocery store, the applicant should evaluate the potential for the number of large trucks present to exceed the number of loading dock berths. It is not at all clear where a large truck would wait for a dock to open up. It may have no other option than to wait on Fauntleroy Way SW, blocking traffic, and potentially interfering with Fauntleroy’s bike lane.”

    “Combination (tractor-trailer) trucks would swing very wide across the sidewalk on Fauntleroy to enter the midblock private alley. This could surprise pedestrians since the trailer follows a very different (and much tighter) path than the tractor, which swings wide.”

    “Truck traffic serving the Whole Foods store appears to be significantly under-estimated.”

    “The alley vacation petition includes an illustration entitled “PM Peak Hour Total Driveway Trips” that under-reports the volume of vehicles using the private alley.”

    “The proposed private midblock alley would function mainly as parking and truck access to the project. It’s a service corridor with a sidewalk. That function differs markedly from the concept articulated by the West Seattle Triangle Plan (Nov. 2011) which shows a pedestrian-only connection in the west half of the block.”

    Although Weingarten has since removed the proposed drive-thru pharmacy, these significant problems remain.

  • Peter on Fauntleroy March 5, 2014 (10:53 am)

    Getting it right for West Seattle just called me urging me to oppose this. I’m very curious how they knew my name and phone number because I strongly disagree with them and have never had any contact with them. Of course, I’ve already written to the city council transportation committee to tell them in detail why I support the project, but sure I did enjoy telling that to the person who called.

    • WSB March 5, 2014 (10:58 am)

      Peter, so it was a live person, not a robocall? I’m writing a story about the campaigning on both sides and that would be of note. As with all political or advocacy campaigns, I believe they can access lists of registered voters and their contact information. I hope the GIRWS commenter here will correct me if that is not accurate, and/or not how they got names to call – Tracy

  • Peter March 5, 2014 (11:10 am)

    Yes, it was a live person.

  • Sutton March 5, 2014 (12:02 pm)

    GIRFWS –

    I am sure that whatever traffic analysis you paid for is telling you what you want to hear.

    I am referring to the non-partisan city staff who have completed their work to advise the council in their decision.

    Their facts differs from your viewpoint.

  • Paul March 5, 2014 (12:31 pm)

    Read the Tilghman Group analysis and wasn’t impressed. I thought it was vague and out of date considering the changes to the project since it was written. I suspect I could rewrite the report with the same data and support a conclusion that traffic impacts would be minimal.

  • David March 5, 2014 (1:08 pm)

    WOW….I made one comment on the Facebook page for the fake grassroots group “Getting it Right West Seattle” and within 30 minutes started getting calls from the grocery union (UFCW21). I’ve deleted my criticisms on Facebook …please stop calling me. I’ll stop arguing about this project and bow out.

  • McFail March 5, 2014 (1:33 pm)

    Not very accurate when the video comes out months before the final report… So when the report says they under estimate the number of vehicle trips, is it conceding that the Whole Foods is a desired location?

  • JVP March 5, 2014 (2:09 pm)

    Oh this is just lovely. Please stop with the politics and build the project. I for one am really looking forward to being able to walk to Whole Foods. QFC, Safeway and TJ’s are fine for basics, but don’t cut it for decent produce, meat, seafood, and specialty items for those of us who love to cook. Mmmmmmm, good food!
    I’m sick of the current blight and like that this will bring in more energy to our URBAN area. Yes, it’s urban. Many of those opposed seem to be wishing for a suburban setting. I like the city, that’s why I live here.
    Yeah, I get it, 1/3 of all people don’t like change of any kind. That’s fine, and honest opposition is healthy, it gets us a better project. But the union made this political, and it appears to me that they’re willing to make my neighborhood suffer to make their point. I don’t appreciate that.
    I’ll be personally crushed if the whole foods doesn’t go in, and I’ve got no stake in the game other than wanting better grocery here and I want urban energy rather than suburban sprawl.

  • GettingItRightForWestSeattle March 5, 2014 (2:23 pm)

    Hi all –

    David – Your comments and questions were fine, no need to delete. The call timing was a coincidence, no conspiracy! Lots of people in the GIRFWS coalition are working to raise public attention about this project because the vote is coming up quickly.

    As we’ve said before, GIRFWS is a loose coalition. We have 5-8 people come to our publicly announced meetings (see our events listings on FB) every month or so. More than 500 small businesses, organizations, WS leaders and residents signed a letter to Tom Rasmussen with concerns.

    Not all of us share every concern — small biz concerned about another chain store, residents concerned about traffic and parking, grocery workers’ and construction unions concerned about wages, social justice groups concerned about affordable housing, transportation groups concerned with transit, etc.

    But we all agree that this project needs to be drastically improved to match the WS Triangle Plan before it moves forward. All are welcome to come to our next meeting to meet us!

  • XXX March 5, 2014 (3:46 pm)

    So, GettingItRight, yes or no: Is the only reason you’re against this project because a non-union grocery store is slated to be a tenant?
    And, yes or no: If a union grocery was slated to be a tenant you’d have no problem with the project?
    Also, if the GettingItRight coalition is so concerned about traffic and overdevelopment in West Seattle, why have we not heard anything from you regarding any of the many residential projects underway in the Junction area?

  • JVP March 5, 2014 (4:19 pm)

    @ GettingItRightForWestSeattle

    Is there any way you’ll publicly support this project if Whole Foods is a tenant? Please answer this question for us.

  • GettingItRightForWestSeattle March 5, 2014 (6:00 pm)

    Many of our coalition members would support the project, regardless of tenant (Whole Foods or not), if it was much more consistent with the West Seattle Triangle Plan and had fewer impacts on the neighborhood feel and traffic. In fact, one of our alternative designs includes a 30,000 sf retail space that could accommodate a Whole Foods or other major retailer.

  • Sonic March 5, 2014 (6:18 pm)

    I was stunned to read through this thread and note that GIRFWS is funded by UFCW21. I guess I should have read more carefully months ago – the WS Blog clearly stated this in an article and I missed it. I think it’s underhanded that this little fact isn’t mentioned anywhere on their FB page. And I’m convinced that their entire purpose is to block this development because Whole Foods isn’t union. As far as I’m concerned, bring on the Whole Foods! I’ll be waiting outside their door on opening day, and I’m going to commit to giving Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s 100% of my shopping dollars.

  • Sutton March 5, 2014 (10:41 pm)

    GIRFWS –

    Please define how your group perceives the proposed project is specifically inconsistent with the Triangle Plan.

    Having sat for +two years on that planning committee, I am acutely aware of the final designations and the many robust discussions that preceded them.

    City Council passed the Triangle Plan, and SDOT and DPD are enforcing them on this proposal.

    If you were to do an overlay of the block’s desired configuration and amenities from the Triangle Plan with the proposed project, it meets or exceeds most every target.

    Your two proposed options do not align nearly as well.

    I am tenant neutral on this project (don’t care who the retailer is). This design brings well planned urban development and density to the core of West Seattle, where it belongs. People who live there will enjoy a walkable, safer neighborhood.

    Growth and change continues in West Seattle. These additional homes in this location preserve the single family lot neighborhoods throughout our community and focus growth on the planned areas.

  • JVP March 6, 2014 (9:08 am)

    @GettingItRightForWestSeattle “Many of our coalition members would support the project, regardless of tenant”

    Sure. But would you?

Sorry, comment time is over.