@ Junction Neighborhood Organization: Underground utilities for ‘Fauntleroy Boulevard’? (and more)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Should the Fauntleroy Boulevard project include undergrounding utilities – considering that could cost an extra $6 million or so? That’s the question Councilmember Tom Rasmussen raised at this month’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting.

The undergrounding cost was first mentioned publicly a week earlier, at the Southwest District Council meeting (WSB coverage here), with SWDC’s immediate past co-chair Sharonn Meeks reporting on a conversation with Rasmussen. This is the first time he had subsequently discussed it publicly with a West Seattle group. Taking utilities underground, he noted, “can be … transformational,” but the project has to be designed that way, and it’s now at a crossroads, with about two-thirds of the design completed: Should it be designed with underground utilities or not? The councilmember says he’s looking for community feedback. A few points to consider:

-The Fauntleroy Boulevard project currently is, he said, “kind of in the middle” of the list of city priorities
-If it’s a community priority, it needs to get into the budget cycle that starts this spring, looking ahead to the capital-improvement plan for 2016
-Utilities will indeed be out of sight (“undergrounded” via vaults) at The Whittaker‘s site, which is at the west end of the Alaska-to-35th Fauntleroy Boulevard plan

What other projects for West Seattle are already in the mix? he was asked. The 35th SW and SW Roxbury safety improvements, for starters, he pointed out. Neither would be as costly as the Fauntleroy Boulevard project, but they’re both already well into the pipeline, after recent community meetings. Speaking of which, Rasmussen wondered if a “large community meeting” might be merited for gathering feedback on undergrounding Fauntleroy; instead, after some discussion, it was decided the February 4th Southwest District Council meeting (which, like all district and community-council meetings, is open to the public – 7 pm at the Senior Center of West Seattle) would be the best, and soonest, venue.

Also discussed last week at the JuNO meeting:

NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICTS: Previously, these were discussed in council committee back in September, as a way for the city to support neighborhoods looking for ways to preserve some of their “character” even amid growth and redevelopment. Watch for official proposals soon; they might include “affordable-housing goals,” according to Rasmussen, who said those proposals will be unveiled for community comment and public meetings, likely starting in March, before legislation is finalized and taken to the full council. The new city budget does have funding for at least a part-time person to be assigned to the project.

NEW HUB: The Junction will be the site of another hub to be added to the West Seattle Be Prepared Neighborhood Emergency Communication Hubs, and will need lots of volunteers to help. It’ll be in the Hope Lutheran Church parking lot. Contact ellenwest@hotmail.com if you’re interested.

JUNCTION PROJECT UPDATES: JuNO’s been talking to development teams including the forthcoming CVS at 4722 Fauntleroy Way SW (here’s our December update), which JuNO director René Commons says has a 15-year lease for the site. Project consultants, she says, are “looking at neighborhood character” rather than just working on a “typical suburban strip mall” type of project. … The Junction 47 project (California/Alaska/42nd) is proceeding with its art plans (mentioned here in October), and JuNO is working with the developer and its curator Sara Everett, who Commons says is “selecting artists right now.”

DESIGN REVIEW: Cindi Barker from Morgan Junction, who’s been an advocate on housing/development-related issues citywide, told JuNO that the city’s expected to start “public outreach on Design Review changes” soon.

WEBSITE: JuNO has one coming online soon – it’ll be at wsjuno.org.

37 Replies to "@ Junction Neighborhood Organization: Underground utilities for 'Fauntleroy Boulevard'? (and more)"

  • schwaggy January 19, 2015 (4:52 pm)

    A resounding yes for this idea. I’ve seen what underground utilities can do to a city or even only a city block, and it’s absolutely amazing.
    I really hope money is found for this project. The entrance to West Seattle from the bridge is an eyesore and a blight on our community.

  • Sparky January 19, 2015 (5:04 pm)

    Underground utilities are wonderful. But keep in mind that if you are a property owner who has their power from an area that is going underground, you have to cough up the expense of converting your service to underground, which is pricy – usually about 5k, once all the electrical, landscaping, and SCL connection work is done.

  • The Truth January 19, 2015 (5:06 pm)

    6 million on that would be a waste of money! The is very little return on investment there. If it going to save 6 million in not repairing wires getting hit by trees all the time that would make sense. That is not the case here. I would agree with most everyone else that poles and power lines are not the worlds most beautiful thing to look at we would not be gaining 6 million dollars worth of view here. Lets save 6 million and start securing our criminals and not releasing them without being booked. (I know it’s been delayed) We need to spend wisely and this doesn’t seem worth the money. Plus the cost of the redesign needed to pull this off…….

  • Busrider January 19, 2015 (5:09 pm)

    Rasmussen (and sdot website) doesnt say what the benefits are for undergrounding. Will this allow for large street trees and evergreens? For improving water quality of street runoff that discharges to puget sound?

  • quiz January 19, 2015 (5:28 pm)

    Yes. Bury the wires. Bury them all.

  • Pibal January 19, 2015 (6:04 pm)

    Aye for underground utilities!

  • Jeff January 19, 2015 (6:57 pm)

    Absolutely!!! Previous neighborhoods where i have lived had underground utilities and the peace of mind during heavy wind storms is well worth it!!

  • C January 19, 2015 (7:17 pm)

    Power underground in an earthquake zone ? Sounds like a huge citywide power outage waiting to happen ? Anybody with more info on this ? Thanks

    • WSB January 19, 2015 (7:29 pm)

      C – Power is undergrounded here and there all over the area. The Gatewood area east of south Morgan Junction, Charlestown Hill as you head down toward Alki, just two examples that come to mind. Overhead power is in danger of being taken down by windstorms, which are more common than earthquakes (cases in point include this past Saturday night). Lots of reasons pro/con but I think here the main possible “con” is cost. No design for this yet, which is the point – the project is about to enter the final design phase and if it is to be designed with underground utilities, costing an estimated $6 million more to build (construction funding has not yet been identified), they would have to proceed from this point.

  • Trickycoolj January 19, 2015 (7:27 pm)

    Yes underground! With all the windstorms lately that seems like a no brainer especially if there’s any major trunk lines in that stretch. Love that High Point has everything underground, we rarely lose power unless there’s major damage at the source.

  • Community Member January 19, 2015 (7:35 pm)

    I agree with putting utilities underground during any major project.
    But – I keep waiting for the announcement about how they will build this project in a way that allows continuing delivery truck access to Trader Joe’s and other businesses. I can’t help but wonder whether that’s part of the final 10% of the design process…

  • M January 19, 2015 (8:06 pm)

    I got 5 on it.

  • ketchup January 19, 2015 (9:34 pm)

    Amen to The Truth.

  • Chrisd January 19, 2015 (9:51 pm)

    Underground. Why spend so much in construction and improvements to the neighborhood, only to have leaning, crooked poles and wires running through, it’s 20th century, we might as well bring back giant tv antennas while we’re at it. South Lake Union is case in point, can’t believe how much $$ is going into they neighborhood, yet the poles and wires are literally rubbing up against the new construction. Have the construction companies wrap this into their cost of building in our neighborhood.

  • MellyMel January 19, 2015 (10:27 pm)

    6 million would be what per cent of the overall budget for the project?

    • WSB January 19, 2015 (10:48 pm)

      Potentially up to a third, according to the Southwest District Council discussion earlier this month (linked in this story), but the numbers were nowhere near hard and fast. I need to check back with CM Rasmussen and/or SDOT on that, and perhaps we can get even more info before the public discussion in two weeks.

  • The Truth January 19, 2015 (11:02 pm)

    This thinking on here is so flawed in mho. How many power outages have been cause by falling items in this stretch of road. If you are going to spend that money on grid stability there are several other places in WS that would better serve you for 6 million. The can’t place large timber trees there if the lines are down because the roots would still destroy the sidewalk and become a much larger fall hazard. I have power lines on my street that run in the line of sight of my water view but I don’t think it is up to me to ask my fellow citizens to pay to have them moved. I also think that spending this money is really far up our own butts style thinking. We don’t need some grand entrance to WS. The current project will look good. We don’t need some grandiose picture perfect “look how great we are road” that’s not us, that’s not WS. It also doesn’t matter what the % or cost per $ this addition would be. It’s 6 million freakin’ dollars. Money that is better spent on saftey projects, jail funding, EMS, sidewalks in AH…………

  • Quiz January 20, 2015 (1:03 am)

    @truth, nah. It’s worth it. No doubt.

  • Rick January 20, 2015 (7:12 am)

    Yeah,spend a crapload of my money to make your house worth more. Oh, so progressive. Or sawantive.

  • LittleJ January 20, 2015 (9:27 am)

    I’m all for the aesthetics but I don’t see the safety or view benefits of under grounding this stretch. The newly designed street will look good on it’s own. Truth is correct, how about some sidewalks in the south end of WS or at least along every arterial or street that carries a bus. That’s also SDOT $$ and it has direct safety and neighborhood improvement benefits.

  • j January 20, 2015 (11:12 am)

    A simple question.
    Would 6 million be better spent

    A. In the junction project for curb appeal and views.

    B. In Arbor Heights toward a pedestrian path and parking enforcement so that women can stop pushing their strollers in the middle of the road and kids can have a safe route to school.

    Ponder this for a while it’s a real
    tough decision.

  • Bill January 20, 2015 (11:13 am)

    Yes, get the utilities out of sight EVERYWHERE. I know it’s not feasible, but Fauntleroy Way would be an excellent arterial to begin installing underground utilities. YES, I am in favor of this project.

  • ketchup January 20, 2015 (11:27 am)

    Keeping West Seattle pretty on the outside.

  • Brian January 20, 2015 (11:32 am)

    I ran a lot of these dissenting comments through the beta version of a piece of software I’m writing called “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME???” (Ver. 0.42b) and they all seem to be saying the same thing.

  • Kathleen January 20, 2015 (11:47 am)

    Is there going to be an LID to pay for the underground wires? Or, will it be a gift?

    Our neighborhood had to pay for our own undergrounding. If a majority of property owners vote for it, OK. If its paid by taxpayers, NO!

    • WSB January 20, 2015 (11:56 am)

      I was going to point out even before Kathleen’s comment that the city has said that in most cases, improvements such as undergrounding and sidewalks have to come via neighborhoods voting to tax themselves. There have been a few blocks of new sidewalks in Arbor Heights in the past few years, and a few more on the drawing board, related to the Safe Routes to School program. West Seattle has other sizable areas without sidewalks as well – in Puget Ridge, for example. // For the Fauntleroy Boulevard proposal, only design funding has been secured – and at least as CM Rasmussen explained it, if the design is to include undergrounding, that would have to be the decision from this point forward as the final third of its design is completed, and it would have to be decided within a month, before the council starts looking ahead to the 2016 budget and talking about where money for this project might be found.

  • Scogree January 20, 2015 (12:17 pm)

    Every argument against underground utilities that begs the money be spent instead on other sidewalks, jail funding, Med services, yarn for homeless kittens, etc- is irrelevant. The question is not this or that. Even if the utilities remain above ground, kittens may or may not receive their much needed yarn.
    West Seattle could use some open, welcoming common space, and this is the perfect place for it. This bottleneck that we all spend way too much nervous time passing through, is about as conducive to community interaction as a busy intersection on 99 in Lynnwood. (No offense)
    The money to bury the utilities would be well spent here. This is the very busiest, most used area in WS- we ALL use it. Why not make this an area we can ALL enjoy..?

  • JoAnne January 20, 2015 (12:19 pm)

    Always strikes me as odd how a city that claims to be broke can always afford the most obscene luxuries.

  • sam-c January 20, 2015 (12:22 pm)

    Sure, but didn’t we vote to tax ourselves via “bridging the Gap” levy (not just LID) ? Billed as, among other things, ‘improvements for pedestrians.” ie, sidewalks, anyone???. However, SDOT likes to spread the money around all over and spread the money so thin, so projects like sidewalks are ‘too expensive’ for BTG funds. instead of sidewalks, 1/2 blocks here and there get street trees, North Delridge gets drainage swales….I feel like SDOT sold the snake oil when they were selling that levy….. won’t get my vote again.

    • WSB January 20, 2015 (12:40 pm)

      Bridging The Gap expires this year. There’s been talk – mentioned off and on in various stories here, as well as elsewhere – of a new transportation levy. If I were a betting woman, I would bet this is a candidate for that future levy. Anyway, you can read about BTG, including the most recently funded projects (and note the left-side links to past projects, which included some WS sidewalking) here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/btg_nsf_large.htm

  • Robert2715 January 20, 2015 (12:29 pm)

    When the new Safeway went up in Admiral, the poles outside of the building stayed – wish between the developer and the city they could have been undergrounded during construction, but no, and another opportunity lost.

    I think we all are so used to seeing the poles we don’t realize how ugly they are.

  • datamuse January 20, 2015 (1:37 pm)

    Considering how many power outages West Seattle sees every year, chiefly due to wind, I’m having a hard time characterizing this proposal as an “obscene luxury”. In my world, that term is reserved for things like daily hot oil massages for the City Council.

  • The Truth January 20, 2015 (1:47 pm)


    I’m glad you mentioned yarn for homeless kittens, I can’t believe I missed that in my other causes that are clearly on the same level. My point is not that it is a this or that choice. My point it my post has been prioritizing spending. 6 million is 6 million. If the property owners who receive increased value from this want to pay for it then great but my house in Gatewood does not. Now I am all for spending money that I may not directly benefit from when it is part of the greater good. This part of an already expensive project doesn’t pass the test. I am fine with West Seattle being gifted the majority of a road that is a BMW but I don’t think we need to ask for blu tooth and heated seats as well. If they were spending this money somewhere else in the city I would still be asking about sidewalks and other services. I bet you a lot of other people would be more concerned about the cost when it doesn’t directly benefit WS.

  • wetone January 20, 2015 (6:12 pm)

    Maybe Tom R. can pay for it with all the revenue from fees and taxes the city will be collecting from car to go and others in the same business that he’s pushing to open up. The city can’t fix roads or other infrastructure problems because they don’t have the money, but they have plenty for projects like this. Should be no different than any other area, you want underground then bordering properties pay for it. How about the business owners pay or have fees charged to the developers in area. 6 mil here 6 mil there starts adding up pretty quick. One thing to think about, what if they go underground and after spending 6 mil staying in budget, 10yrs from now the road needs to be reconfigured for updated transit and everything needs to be moved ? This is Seattle………

  • Tracie January 20, 2015 (6:45 pm)

    Yes! And come bury mine, too.

  • Jw January 20, 2015 (8:25 pm)

    so is this going out for bid, or is SCL going to do the work?….for 6m? seems like a lot. The trees in the new design should hide the wires and blend the poles nicely. I’d say money better spent somewhere else. I also agree with the above question about what happens when they “re-do” the whole thing in 10 years and have to relocate them again.

  • Good Development January 20, 2015 (11:02 pm)

    Enough is enough. This corridor is an eyesore, and this project needs to be pushed through for the greater good of West Seattle. As far as payment goes yes Seattle is among the fastest growing cities and one if the most desirable. Forecasts show that by development will be rising at a 22% rate by 2020. With this demand, friends, it’s time we start tightening the supply by asking our development groups to contribute to the neighborhood that they’re becoming a part of.

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