West Seattle development: Land-use decision for project at ex-Charlestown Café site

(Rendering from final Design Review meeting, 11/2014, by Johnston Architects)
One West Seattle project on this morning’s city Land Use Information Bulletin: Land-use-permit approval is in for 3824 California SW, site of the four-years-closed Charlestown Café, where 27 townhouse/live-work units are planned. You can read the decision here, including conditions the project will have to meet, and a parking assessment (26 spaces are planned along the alley on the site’s east side; the study projects the townhouses and live-work units will generate nightly demand for 20+ more spaces, which are expected to be available on the streets alongside the site).

Publication starts the clock on a two-week window for anyone who wants to appeal the decision – the official notice links to this page explaining how. We’ll be asking developer Intracorp if they have a date yet for demolition of the four-years-closed café. Checking county records, we note the sale of the site closed last month, in two parts (different owners), just under $1.8 million for the half-acre on the north side, just over $1 million for the quarter-acre on the south side.

SIDE NOTE: This was not the first redevelopment proposal for the site; a 2006-2007 proposal to build a standalone Petco on the site had big trouble in Design Review and was finally scrapped in 2008; a mixed-use proposal emerged shortly after the café’s closure in spring 2011, but had fallen through within a year; the townhouse proposal was first reported here in June 2013.

21 Replies to "West Seattle development: Land-use decision for project at ex-Charlestown Café site"

  • anonyme March 9, 2015 (9:34 am)

    It appears that California is destined to become one long, long row of institutional Orwellian structures. Modern architecture is fine, but the same blueprint repeated ad nauseam is just that – nauseous.

  • debra March 9, 2015 (11:16 am)

    Is the picture actually what it is going to look like? If so so much for blending into the style of the neighborhood..god awful ugly
    Guess where those additional 20 cars are going to park On 42nd ave infront of single family homes

    • WSB March 9, 2015 (11:25 am)

      This *is* actually becoming the predominant style of the neighborhood, along California at least, within a few years. Across the street, the Charlestown Court apartments will be replaced by similar-as-far-as-we-know townhouses, and the redevelopment continues in both directions – projects we’ve written about in the 4000 block, 4100 block, etc. – and to the north on California, the 3210 block-long apartment building on the east side of the street and the townhouses/live-works on the west side of the street (same developer) are in various stages. P.S. If you read the decision on this, it says street parking will be created by the removal of several curb cuts, and they expect those 20 cars to be accommodated along Charlestown/California/Bradford frontages of the site. – TR

  • Brian March 9, 2015 (11:18 am)

    I too mourn the loss of this vacant parking lot and rotting wooden structure; the carcass of a restaurant which served substandard food and had poor service.

  • heather March 9, 2015 (11:54 am)

    I like it. I was on the bus going south down Stone way toward the water the other day and that area has become pretty nice. Very walkable with buildings like this and great retail / gyms at street level. There were lots of people walking up and down the sidewalks and because of the large windows I could also see the retail/gym spaces were in use too. For the first time ever I thought that area would be a nice place to live.

    As a homeowner in WS I welcome the growth and services/people it brings to the neighborhood. I agree that bad design, such as the apodments on Delridge, add nothing to the neighborhood but this building looks street level friendly and uses space well in the upper level. Although, I wouldn’t complain if there were more open anterior courtyards in these new designs to encourage people to gather.

  • Jim March 9, 2015 (12:56 pm)

    I think this is attractive and I welcome the improvement. I love the design trend that is evident in our city – it is sensible, modern, and no more monotonous than the existing rows of cheap bungalows built in the 40s and 50s. Go to Marysville, Sammamish, or Phoenix if you want to see what “ad nauseum” really looks like.

  • debra March 9, 2015 (12:58 pm)

    I feel sorry for those homeowners like those on 42nd and 44th who have bulky, shadow producing, parking issues…if folks had to live with this in their direct neighborhood might be a different discussion

  • justme March 9, 2015 (1:13 pm)

    Great, more boxes coming to the neighborhood.

    @anonyme Love the expression “Orwellian.”

  • sc March 9, 2015 (2:56 pm)

    For the single family home owners on 42nd here is the law.

    Driveways and parking don’t mix

    Are vehicles ever parked too close to your driveway? What can be done?

    According to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC 11.72.110) it is not permitted to park in front of a driveway. In fact, there is a five foot buffer on either side of the driveway where parking is prohibited.

    What can you do if people are breaking this rule at your driveway?

    SDOT recommends that property owners use yellow paint to enhance this five-foot area. Painting the curb yellow, five feet back from the edge of your driveway, will help to increase the sight distance for motorists to see all vehicles, including bicyclists. To view an example of how the curb should look, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/parking/drivewaymarking.htm.

    When you see parking violations occurring, call and report them to the Seattle Police Department non-emergency dispatch number at (206) 625-5011 to get the next available parking enforcement officer out to the location.

  • debra March 9, 2015 (3:35 pm)

    SC most of the homeowners don’t have garages or driveways that they access from the front..many as does 44th have access via the alley
    Then the spill over crames cars on to the streets in front of their homes…folks on 42 and 44 pay for the lack of parking and then the street becomes narrow as folks speed down trying to get somewhere faster by not being on California
    Crummy all the way around for folks on those streets

  • West Seattle Hipster March 9, 2015 (5:53 pm)

    That is quite the aesthetically challenged building. The Ballardification of WS continues…………….

  • community member March 9, 2015 (6:25 pm)

    @SC – thank you for posting that link! I painted the curb yellow next to my driveway, but I actually thought it was illegal. I was prepared to over-paint it grey if asked, or would even have cheerfully paid a modest fine. It makes me happy to know it is legit.

  • Enviromaven March 9, 2015 (6:38 pm)


  • WestofJunction March 10, 2015 (4:05 am)

    Agree with Brian- bad food, ugly building. It stayed empty for quite a while, so there were no takers willing to keep the site at its current use.

  • Mike March 10, 2015 (6:14 am)

    “which served substandard food” Really? Odd…”Webster’s Charlestown Street Cafe in West Seattle took first place with their chowder in the Nation’s Best Clam Chowder contest. The 19th annual competition took place June 2, 2000 in Newport, Rhode Island. Their chowder has also won first place in several past contests in Seattle and Oregon.”
    Guess we’ll make our own. http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Catgurrl/Soup-Chowder/Charlestown39s_Famous_Clam_Chowder.html

  • Mike March 10, 2015 (6:18 am)

    sc, you posted one of the most important things that bicyclists should be asking for in road enhancements to prevent accidents. Blind spots from backing out of a driveway can be deadly to a cyclist, motorcyclist and cause horrific car accidents. I find that people also park far to close to intersections and especially stop signs.

  • When will it stop March 10, 2015 (8:24 am)

    As a resident of West Seattle for the past 17 years it is heartbreaking that so little thought has been put into the impact these new residences bring. Who is approving these buildings? It seems that if you have the money you can make anything happen. What happened to responsibility? With the added traffic, cars, and people the the needed infrastructure has been left as an afterthought. Once all the buildings have been built, the developers paid, and the city has signed off on the final permits, we will be left with a mess that will no doubt be left in the hands of local committees who will argue and debate for years about what to do next. Lastly, the added cars and people will make it impossible to leave West Seattle via the bridge. With the upcoming closure of 99 and only one lane to exit onto I-5 the commute time will only increase. Did the city take this into consideration when they ok’d all the developments?

  • WSince86 March 10, 2015 (8:40 am)

    Yes, Mike, the Charleston won not only one time in Rhode Island, but numerous times! One can still get that great chowder, plus some other varieties at Pike Place Chowder down near the market.
    As a small business owner, who relies on just one ‘on street parking’ spot, located between this location and the construction currently going on north on California, is there any time frame for when this project may be started? The impact on traffic and, dare I say it, parking, with two major construction projects within 6 or so blocks of each other should prove to be rather interesting.

  • Fishy March 10, 2015 (1:15 pm)

    I liked that chowder despite the geriatric feel of the place. But then read the fine print. As I remember, the competition only included a few restaurants, like 10. Seemed like a cheat to advertise that way. Not that it matters, as they are long gone. Parking on the other hand is going to suck.

    Perhaps the WSB could sponsor a summer day where we residents all paint our curbs around driveways, stop signs, and margins of intersections. Think how that social community act would change the entire West Seattle neighborhoods.

  • me again March 10, 2015 (8:05 pm)

    Does the SAME person design every single new development in Seattle?

  • WS since '66 March 17, 2015 (7:28 am)

    Many of the new buildings are a vast improvement for the area. Take the Hole as an example. The classic brickwork and modulated design of the Spruce looks fantastic compared to the old pot holed parking lot and the old eyesore that was a grocery store before being converted to a Hancock Fabrics and an auto parts store. I can’t wait to see the Whitaker when finished. Exciting times for West Seattle.

Sorry, comment time is over.