Happening now: City Council approves The Whittaker’s alley-vacation petition, 6-3

(TOPLINE: The long-debated alley vacation is approved by the City Council in a 6-3 vote.)

We’re at City Hall this afternoon for the City Council meeting expected to bring a vote on the “alley vacation” for 4755 Fauntleroy Way, aka The Whittaker (or, the “Whole Foods” project). Five councilmembers voted in favor of it at the Transportation Committee‘s meeting almost two weeks ago.

The meeting begins with public comment on whatever’s on the agenda, not just this item; Deb Barker, a longtime opponent, is the first to comment on the alley vacation, urging the council to vote “no.” Next commenter is Elena Perez (above), coordinator of the group that has opposed the development for a year, Getting It Right for West Seattle. She says that after outreach done by the group, “Overwhelmingly, the conclusion is that this development is bad for our community” and calls the potential alley vacation “a land grab.”

First speaker in favor of the alley vacation is Sharonn Meeks (above). She says there’s a misconception – “the developer is going to pay” for the alley, not get it for free. She’s followed by Dave Montoure, who also is a supporter and says he has been to many meetings and hearings: “Density supports business, not just Fortune 500 businesses, (but also) small businesses like my own.”

2:25 PM: Now to the alley vacation item. Councilmember Mike O’Brien, one of three councilmembers who voted “no” at the Transportation Committee meeting, presents the “minority report” first. He says the main reason he’s opposing it is because of “the public-benefit tradeoff.” He says he doesn’t think it will meet the needs of pedestrian access. Next, the “majority report,” presented by Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. He says it’s been vetted through “dozens of meetings” at community and city-department levels. After a brief bit of history about the alley/street-vacation process, he notes that the committee he chairs reviewed the project and determined that it meets the requirements laid out in the process, including public benefits such as green-street improvements on 40th, a crosswalk to the north, landscaping, a $25,000 contribution to the new city park on 40th, and a new bike lane on the west side of Fauntleroy. And Rasmussen reiterates that the developer would pay “full market value” for the alley land.

Next, Councilmember Nick Licata, who voted against it at the committee meeting, says he is still opposed because he believes it does not provide “a significant public benefit.” After him, Councilmember Sally Clark reiterates her support, and also says she’s glad to hear that West Seattle is forming a Land Use Committee (via the Southwest District Council – see our earlier coverage). She says she believes the project “is providing more than adequate public benefit” while acknowledging that the project might not be perfect, but it has gone through boards and committees and other layers of feedback and “sets of expectations.”

Rollcall vote: 6 yes, 3 no. The alley vacation petition is approved. Rasmussen offers closing words that the development will upgrade what is currently a “bleak” site. He also thanks everyone for public involvement in the extensive process. The “no” votes are Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata, and Kshama Sawant; the “yes” votes are Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Bruce Harrell, Sally Clark, Jean Godden.

The council will be talking about parks funding after this meeting so we’ll be staying for that, as parks funding is a big issue for much of West Seattle.

TUESDAY MORNING NOTE: We’re working on a separate followup for later today, but a project spokesperson says a published report today of construction starting in July is NOT accurate. They continue to expect that work will begin “by year’s end.”

40 Replies to "Happening now: City Council approves The Whittaker's alley-vacation petition, 6-3"

  • wsn00b April 21, 2014 (2:43 pm)


  • rr April 21, 2014 (2:49 pm)

    Finally! Can’t wait to see a shovel in the ground!

  • JanS April 21, 2014 (2:54 pm)

    finally they can start moving on this project. It’s gonna happen whether some want it or not. Please tell Deb Barker she doesn’t speak for all the people in West Seattle. She can only speak for herself.

    I would much rather have this project move forward than see another year’s wrangling while that corner sits there being ugly and unwelcoming. (Then I’d like to see more thoughtful approaches to development – we’re developed out, IMHO)

  • RelievedinWS April 21, 2014 (3:05 pm)

    What a relief, it is a joyous day for myself and many other WS residents who have been patiently waiting for Whole Foods. Deb Barker does not obviously speak for all the people of WS. Happy Day!

  • JJ April 21, 2014 (3:45 pm)

    This is great news! Maybe now fraud originations like Got it Wrong for WS will be up front about opposing development due to a potential non union tenant instead of representing themselves as a group concerned about our community. Make a real case, WS people like honesty and will do the right thing.

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (3:47 pm)

    Deb Barker speaks for me, and many many many others in West Seattle; thank you for being there Deb
    I don’t think she said she was speaking for “all the people in West Seattle”; I’m watching/recording; will play back to hear again what exactly she said, and post some of her awesome detailed commentary on behalf of many in our community; we simply wanted better design to better benefit our neighborhood

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (3:48 pm)

    huge THANK YOU to City of Seattle Coucilmembers Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata, and Kshama Sawant for your “NO” vote; this current design is bad for our neighborhood; thanks to Mike and Nick for speaking up and presenting a few of the many reasons that this current design is highly flawed and bad for West Seattle

  • kumalavula April 21, 2014 (4:07 pm)

    as a longtime west seattle resident and one that opposes most construction, i will say i have been pro- whole foods for a while and am excited by this news! i’d much prefer seeing them come in and offer more shopping options than having those now vacant buildings and chain link fences remain as unsightly landmarks on our community. though this will clearly take a while for the doors to open and business to be booming, i think whole foods has stayed its course in wanting to be part of our community. the interesting part, though i’ve done no independent research to verify this, is that i just recently heard that whole foods is also involved in the potential purchase of property that includes an “alley’ in eugene, oregon where they also want to/plan to open a store.

  • kumalavula April 21, 2014 (4:09 pm)

    as a longtime west seattle resident and one that opposes most construction, i will say i have been pro- whole foods for a while and am excited by this news!

    i’d much prefer seeing them come in and offer more shopping options than having those now vacant buildings and chain link fences remain as unsightly landmarks in our community. though this will clearly take a while for the doors to open and business to boom, i think whole foods has proven its commitment to our community and stayed its course through the process.

    the interesting part, though i’ve done no independent research to verify this, is that i just recently heard that whole foods is also involved in the potential purchase of property that includes an “alley’ in eugene, oregon where they also want to/plan to open a store.

  • CJ April 21, 2014 (4:12 pm)

    I appreciate all those who took the time and energy to attend the meetings and speak their mind. Kudos for you guys..rather than all of us who have opinions but don’t take any action.

  • David April 21, 2014 (4:35 pm)

    Finally something in Seattle is decided – now I know 3 people that I will never vote for in the future

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (4:48 pm)

    “Deb Barker, a longtime opponent”, of what? Deb has been longtime proponent of good design, good development, good public benefit for our community; she is opposing the alley vacation based on the current design & public benefit proposal

    • WSB April 21, 2014 (5:20 pm)

      Diane, I don’t have the time to go dig up the writings of myself and others. I sat here a couple feet away (where I am still sitting as the council goes on through an even-more-complicated but unrelated issue) as Deb asked them to vote “no.” How does that NOT make her an opponent? Words are imperfect but that’s the best one I have.

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (4:49 pm)

    “the group that has opposed the development for a year” is not accurate; I volunteered tons of my unpaid time for over a year as a part of this group; we were never opposed to this development; we have advocated for improved designs of this project, and better public benefit; and I have never been a part of any union; we are neighbors who care about our community

  • quiz April 21, 2014 (5:14 pm)

    Good news.

  • Peter April 21, 2014 (5:24 pm)

    Yeah!! Reason and law win out over scare tactics and disinformation. To GIR4WS: you’re liars, you’re wrong, you lost, we’re all sick of you, please go away forever.

  • Thank you April 21, 2014 (5:45 pm)

    Cj we’ll said! No matter where anyone stands, indeed! Kudos to the West Seattle blog for sharing facts and being there as a great neighborhood resource opposed or unopposed throughout this entire long 2 year process. Bet that $15 per hour, something that affects practically every resident in Seattle much more than an alley, won’t take two years…..

    I do hope that this land-use committee that was referred to at the meeting will operate in a equal and fair way – and share all of opinions whether they are pro and con when it comes to future projects. My only question is how are they different from the design review board? Do they have authority to approve and not approve projects? Finally and most importantly, how do these people get selected?
    This part makes me a bit nervous….

    Thank you Tom, Sally, Tim, Bruce, Jean and Sally!

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (6:02 pm)

    I’ve been watching/recording since 2pm; perhaps Deb can add a comment for herself; as her friend, and both of us longtime volunteers, we are not anti-development; she has advocated in great detail many reasons for better design and better public benefit before saying yes to the alley vacation
    as I read, “Deb Barker, a longtime opponent”, followed by “the group that has opposed the development for a year”, it sounds like she and we are being depicted as longtime opponents to development; not true; I’ve been advocating for good design/good development in WS for 7 yrs, and Deb has been at it much longer
    it has been disheartening enough to dedicate countless unpaid hours trying to do good for our community
    and then we get to hear lovely slanderous comments like “you’re liars, you’re wrong, you lost, we’re all sick of you, please go away forever. Comment by Peter”

  • boy April 21, 2014 (6:05 pm)

    This is good news to all the carpenters ,plumbers and all the tradsman that will be working on this. This will help put food on there tables.

  • joel April 21, 2014 (7:25 pm)

    what other projects are ‘getting it right for west seattle’ involved with? are they opposed to other projects going up or being planned…there are several cranes in place and more scheduled for West Seattle. or do they only get involved based on who the anchor tenant is going to be?

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (7:31 pm)

    the Land Use Committee is open to everyone; we haven’t had any meetings yet; when a meeting time is announced, if you care, show up; most people do not show up at any meetings; then they come here and complain

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (7:39 pm)

    This from Deb; (her comments are also at beginning of public comment on the seattlechannel video which should be available soon):
    Diane – This is the gist of what I said:
    “I’m Deb Barker – a West Seattle Resident. I urge you to vote no on the alley vacation on the 4755 Fauntleroy Way SW project.
    I’ve followed this development for over a year, attending meetings and commenting on the proposal.
    Some good things that have happened is that I’ve met fellow West Seattle Residents who care that their community does not look like the suburbs.
    Also, West Seattle will be starting a land use committee. This will be a peninsula-wide committee so that West Seattle can become development savvy like our fellow Seattleites in Queen Anne and Wallingford.
    But, if you care about developments that cater to businesses that aren’t listed in “Money” magazine, you will vote NO on the alley vacation.
    If you care about a true pedestrian only experience – one that is not shared with semi trucks, you will vote NO on the alley vacation.
    If you care about safe traffic flow … you will vote NO on the alley vacation.
    Please know that I’ll return before you with future Alley Vacation deliberations on this project.”
    Unfortunately – no notes for the last two lines.)

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (7:47 pm)

    how many times can we repeat, over and over and over, we are not opposed to development; we are not opposed to this project; we are not opposed to other projects
    @joel; how many design reviews have you attended? I have participated in nearly every design review for nearly every project in WS for 7yrs, so I am very familiar with every crane and every project planned/being built in WS

  • Hmm April 21, 2014 (7:50 pm)

    I think your comment that you’re trying to do good for the community is the part that bothers me. I think it’s great if you’ve been advocating for good design and development but those are your ideas, and opinions. Every time you or anyone has an opportunity, you should continue to be vocal or heard and share them. Countless hours on something you believe in is never a bad thing, but when people talk about doing for the good of our community when they don’t ask you to do this for them is bothersome.

  • Diane April 21, 2014 (7:51 pm)

    for example; the developer of the former Petco site was fantastic and is creating a beautiful project with wonderful public amenities

  • joel April 21, 2014 (8:14 pm)

    Diane….if they did not ask the alley to be vacated….without vacating the alley…….can you share then what the zoning allowed for on this property? how large a structure…compared to what was just approved? would that size property have called for such scrutiny as the current ‘whole foods’ one?’

    Diane…thanks for calling me out….but could you answer the question……what other projects is ‘getting it right for west seattle’ against?

  • Dale April 21, 2014 (8:22 pm)

    I never attended a meeting but have driven by the site many times. What was the issue with the alley vacation? I never recall seeing a car ever drive on it either way. There is a fence on both sides now..for how long? I don’t see that being an issue for traffic flow. That corner development will be several times it was…its right on the C line and other bus routes, it has parking while others developments have none.

  • JVP April 21, 2014 (10:05 pm)

    Oh come on. If you opposed this development just own it and say you opposed it.
    For me, I’m glad to see it is moving forward. It encourages the walkable and vibrant Junction core that I love. It’ll be a 5 minute walk for me and I really look forward to better grocery options.
    Getting it right, maybe you guys can oppose the horrid stand-alone drugstore that is planned across the street. That is truly an urban planning nightmare in the works and actually deserves some opposition. Maybe that ideas is dead now, but my heart sank when I read about it here.

  • JanS April 21, 2014 (10:15 pm)

    some of us can’t/couldn’t attend all the meetings for “the last 7 years”. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care, that we don’t have an opinion and that we don’t want good things for our community. I think that’s what I dislike, the attitude that if we don’t stand with the objectors thru thick and thin, then we don’t care about our community. We do. Did I see anyone else submitting drawn plans? No…but , of course, I couldn’t attend meetings.

    If a huge 300 unit apt. bldg. is going to go up, with a grocery store, then trucks have to get there somehow. What did this group suggest would work better? I would have preferred a smaller scale, and no Whole Foods, but that’s me. I didn’t form a committee to take this all the way to the City Council to do that, and drag this out for this long. The Design Review Board sent this back a number of times for work, and then approved it. I may disagree with that approval, but it’s still going to happen. I have no problem with the alley vacation, since it wasn’t used as an alley anyway. The city will be paid for it, it’s not a giveaway. Time to move on…maybe take on micro housing…now there’s a real problem !

  • JanS April 21, 2014 (10:17 pm)

    I agree with JVP on the CVS plans. That kind of stand along is fine in suburbia, or in a shopping center like Westwood, or strip malls. It remains to be seen if it will happen.

  • Ken April 22, 2014 (5:00 am)

    THANK YOU to the six council members who approved this project. If/when they run for re-election, they will certainly be getting my vote. Still cannot fathom what was so detrimental about an “alley vacation” for an alley that was never-to- seldom used in the entire time of it’s existence.
    By the way, where was “Getting It Right for West Seattle” when planning and approval was made for a 30 unit apartment with no parking?

  • Greg Dreg April 22, 2014 (7:00 am)

    Thank god. Enough of all this ‘we are the 99%’ class warfare nonsense, some of us just want a decent grocery store. Welcome Whole Foods!

  • Peter April 22, 2014 (9:08 am)

    Diane, I stand by my comment against getting it right for WS. Please don’t take it personally. But you raise a question for me regarding who gets to decide what “good design” is? This isn’t perfect, but with the Seattle Process allowing neighborhood activists and Design Review Boards to dictate to architects what “good design” is, this is the best that is currently possible in Seattle. Because of the Seattle Process, creativity in buildings in Seattle all too often gets compromised out of what ends up getting built.

  • JVP April 22, 2014 (9:09 am)

    JanS – have you heard any rumors that the CVS now isn’t going to happen? Sure seems like the land owner is making a mistake (both financially and impact to the community) as that surely isn’t highest and best use for that site.

    • WSB April 22, 2014 (9:17 am)

      I don’t know that there are any rumors but I have mentioned before in comment discussions that there has been no activity in the DPD files in months, unlike the other similar projects elsewhere in the area. The original documents that inspired our original report showed up in July and nothing new has appeared since. – TR

  • Bolvar April 22, 2014 (9:29 am)

    With such a large parcel I was hoping for some good development,a first run movie theater,an ice skating rink,something to keep people on the peninsula.Something truly good for our neighborhood.More overpriced apartments and an overpriced grocery store are not my idea of public benefit.

  • alki warrior April 22, 2014 (10:14 am)

    I can’t afford to shop at Whole Paycheck or QFC or Trader Joe’s. I go to WinCo once a month and shop for several weeks worth. Just as good and ten times cheaper.

  • JanS April 22, 2014 (6:04 pm)

    I would so have supported a WinCo in that spot. It’s a great store.

    • WSB April 22, 2014 (6:10 pm)

      Could be one in the works for this area somewhere. There’s a mysterious WinCo billboard on 35th SW. There had been a rumor of one slated for a site in the unincorporated area some months back; I’ve been checking on that now and then…

  • JTB April 22, 2014 (9:52 pm)

    Alley vacation aside, I foresee problems with the new crosswalk across Alaska, particularly given the wonderful work of SDOT traffic engineers in re-configuring the lanes and signage on Alaska.

Sorry, comment time is over.