West Seattle development: 5458 California, 4754 Fauntleroy pass Early Design Guidance on 1st try

By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

A 6-live/work-unit project for California and Findlay and a 108-apartment building for Edmunds and Fauntleroy have both moved on to the second phase of Design Review.

Architects presented the Early Design Guidance proposals for 5458 California SW and 4754 Fauntleroy Way SW at the Southwest Design Review Board‘s Thursday night doubleheader at the Sisson Building/Senior Center. At this stage of the process, “massing” – size/shape – is the focus, rather than detailed designs.

5458 California SW was first (here’s the design “packet” and more on the city website):


Architect Andrew Finch presented three potential massing concepts for the six units that would replace the century-old log house that is the office for Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor), which is the current tenant at the site and not involved with the redevelopment project (as noted when we first reported on this proposal in April).

The fate of the old house is yet to be determined, but Finch said the logs are rotting, so moving it is most likely not an option. The six units would be live/work; there is no provision for parking, other than on the street. A RapidRide “C” Line bus stop is directly in front of the property, which already causes parking problems in the neighborhood, neighbors in attendance said, and most of the concerns they voiced were about parking and congestion. One neighbor said a school bus stops nearby as well. But Design Review doesn’t deal with parking; those concerns can be addressed to the city planner on the project (Crystal Torres).

Additionally, neighbors directly east of the parcel will lose a great deal of light and possibly be facing a windowless wall. The option the board favored would have the entrances facing Findlay, which will allow more space between the project and the neighbors to the east, but not much, since the lot is approximately 50 feet by 100 feet. With the zoning of NC2, neighborhood commercial, and frontage on California Avenue, a main arterial, some component of commercial space is required. Finch said his client is very security conscientious, so concerns about safety and privacy would be addressed. Garbage storage, signage and lighting are to be addressed in the next round.

Next: 4754 Fauntleroy Way SW (here’s the design “packet” on the city website).


The architects with MithunBen Gist, Emily Hagen, Bert Gregory, and Rob Facio – gave a polished presentation for the yet-to-be-named project proposed at the corner of Fauntleroy and Edmunds, formerly home to the Capitol Loans pawn shop that closed in May.

It would be a seven-story structure with 108 apartments and 10 live/work units, and 106 below-grade parking spaces. The architects want to incorporate some of West Seattle’s history into the building by paying homage to Nucor Steel. The concept would include steel, mostly for show. Of the three options for massing that were presented, the board agreed with the architects’ preference, which would have an at-grade corner entrance, sidewalks along Edmunds and Fauntleroy, and with a 28-foot setback along Fauntleroy, room for two rows of trees, in hopes creating a positive pedestrian experience.

However, the neighbors who did comment all agreed that a live/work concept is out of context, particularly for the units that would face Fauntleroy. They would prefer retail space. A strong street presence to activate the pedestrian experience is what the board is looking for, but all in all, board members said they were pleased with what they saw, and allowed the project to move forward.

WHAT’S NEXT: Each of these projects will have to have at least one more Design Review meeting, for the “recommendations” phase. Dates are not yet set. If you have comments about the design or other aspects of the projects, you can e-mail their respective city planners:

5458 California SW – crystal.torres@seattle.gov
4754 Fauntleroy Way SW – breanne.mcconkie@seattle.gov

19 Replies to "West Seattle development: 5458 California, 4754 Fauntleroy pass Early Design Guidance on 1st try"

  • Boxes are beautiful, really? August 6, 2016 (8:27 pm)

    Whenever I think of packing things to ship, I think of beautiful boxes. Whenever I think of less than pleasing living spaces, or dare I say “ugly urban architecture,” I also think of boxes. I recognize taste is in the mouth. And, with that having been said, the “envelope designs” I see here taste like the glue on envelopes to me; namely, exactly how I would image the taste of Soviet era boxes, stale and nonhuman. Pardon the mixed metaphors in my post. They are to good writing as these architectural boxes are to urban design. Sorry to hear the timbers at the current location likely can’t be restored or utilized in some way. That house has character, especially in an urban environment. Maybe it’s memory can be built in with some of the actual design to preserve some of the beauty from that corner?

    • john August 7, 2016 (12:09 pm)


      You display great ignorance in your imagined “image’ of “Soviet era boxes”.  Try Google.

      But you do inadvertently reference the efficiency of the post Stalinist housing.

      The Soviet Union did what we in the US have failed miserably to do, provide decent housing for everyone.  They did that as well as holding rents at 3% to 5% of a person’s income. 

      To do that they they employed concrete to build taller larger apartment blocks to efficiently house the most people. 

      Here in Seattle, we drive by hundreds of homeless people daily all the while protesting all attempts to provide these fellow humans just a roof over their heads and a safe place to sleep.

      As Americans, we should all feel ashamed.

  • JRR August 6, 2016 (10:09 pm)

    Massing isn’t design, though. 

  • WD fundie August 7, 2016 (9:10 am)

    The people complaining about a lack of parking AND having traffic congestion should unpack that in their minds just a little bit…..

    Not everyone else chooses to live the way you do, and that’s ok.

  • Jeanie August 7, 2016 (3:34 pm)

    Can someone explain what the heck “live/work” means? Is living separate from working? Are we dead when we work? It’s sort of like saying “animal/dog.” I think it’s developer-speak for small, overpriced “urbanist-friendly” “apartment homes” where in the perfect urban village world, everyone is a well-paid, hip graphic designer. 

    • WSB August 7, 2016 (3:44 pm)

      Live/work units are fairly common. For example – California/Graham, where businesses including WSB sponsor Northwest Insurance are on the ground floor; California north of Admiral where Caffé Ladro and Mind Unwind are – basically townhouses with businesses on the ground floor. There’s been some complaint that they don’t always work out the way they are intended and can stifle activation in what’s intended to be commercial districts.

    • JVP August 8, 2016 (1:15 pm)

      The city requires commercial space at ground floor in many zones, but sometimes these are in places where you can’t get a decent commercial tenant.  To get around this they put in “live/work” spaces where people are required to run businesses out of their apartments to live there.

      Hopping on my soap box for a moment:  It’s silly and pointless.  These are areas where businesses aren’t viable.  The city really needs to loosen up zoning regulations so that developers are allowed to put in ground-floor apartments.  I’m not an anti-zoning type person, but this is one area where our neighborhoods would feel nicer without this over-done zoning rule.

  • Diane August 7, 2016 (3:46 pm)

    glad that I was at both of these important design reviews
    for full context of what really happened and to hear all the comments; fyi, my
    questions & comments are not noted in this story; my main question re the
    6:30pm review was about keeping the Rapid Ride bus stop at California &
    Findlay fully accessible and safe during demolition and construction, and I
    cited example of the south-bound bus stop at 35th & Avalon
    (technically 35th & Snoqualmie) that has been a nightmare for
    over a year (I also participated in design reviews for that giant apt
    development where we were promised an enhanced bus stop there, but no mention
    that it would be shut down for over a year during demolition and construction);
    this city is terrible at protecting pedestrian access and bus stop access
    during construction of projects; and one of the flaws in our current design
    review process is NOT allowing comments re pedestrian & bus access or
    parking & traffic that are ALWAYS a concern of neighbors); my comment on
    the 8pm presentation was re the architects stating they wanted their project to
    increase walkability, but live/work has had opposite impacts all along
    California Ave where I have been broken record for years of design reviews
    asking for retail to encourage walkability (instead of more live/work that
    creates blinds-drawn dead space); thus I echoed “asks” of other public to
    change the live-work along Fauntleroy to retail, to increase walkability

    • WSB August 7, 2016 (3:56 pm)

      Hi, Diane, we were just glad to be able to get someone there to report the results. With the 35th SW meeting the same night, there was no way I could go, but I didn’t want to just ignore the Design Review meeting, as we’ve been covering both these projects for some months. The city’s full report will be the official record, of course, but that usually isn’t out for a few weeks – TR

    • john August 7, 2016 (10:39 pm)

      Hey Diane,

      It appears you crossed response to WSB list of several apparently successful live/work locations along California.  How have you determined that these live/work units have lessoned walkability?

      I frequent several of them, but like retail they are not not walking distance.

    • Zack August 8, 2016 (9:25 am)

      Is there any research on how frequently the work space of live/work units are occupied by businesses as opposed to becoming additional living space?  The amount of square footage for a typical work space in a live/work seems to be smaller and conducive to non-retail businesses.

      Cursory Internet searches reveal nothing. 

      • john August 8, 2016 (10:18 am)

        The examples WSB mentions and the ones I am aware of do not serve as living space.

        Maybe someone could cite some examples?

        The live/work concept certainly does not accommodate traditional retail which requires larger spaces.  

    • JVP August 8, 2016 (1:17 pm)

      Why do you support retail in locations where retail may not be viable?  Maybe lots of tanning salons and vacant store fronts are a good thing.

  • Diane August 7, 2016 (3:50 pm)

    also, having participated in design reviews for 9 yrs; these
    2 examples in one night were an amazing model of extreme ends of spectrum in
    level of financing and presentation; it’s too bad TR was at another WS event
    and unable to record this night at DRB; the first was by a single architect
    doing his very first presentation with a few little poster boards, and the DRB
    was very kind & helpful in trying to lead him in what to present, as he was
    admittedly struggling & nervous; the second was by a huge national
    architectural firm with many years of experience doing these presentations and
    representing an international multi-family development client, with a projected
    slide-show and about 10 reps at the 8pm review, far outnumbering those of us
    from the community who showed up; and the demeanor of the DRB (all architects)
    at this 2nd review was very different

  • Tom V August 8, 2016 (11:56 am)

    As for 5458 California and the numerous other ‘boxes’ in West Seattle/Seattle.    Is this what we have to look forward to in our future neighborhoods?   Is there no way restrict the # of boxes that a neighborhood can accommodate?  I am all for density and housing, but at what cost to the people that plan to live there?  and to those that live nearby?     I would like to see more green space incorporated into the designs / larger sidewalks / public spaces that include benches, fountains, etc.. AND, most of all, owners/landlords that live in Washington State and that take pride in the community they are helping build.    How many of the developers that are buying up land in Seattle and West Seattle actually reside in the area?  Based on my understanding, most of the developers are living in lands far, far away from our communities and are primarily motivated by profits.   We want affordable housing?   Then stop tearing down affordable housing and building empty, soulless boxes!   As readers/contributors have commented in the past, many of the new apartment units (and commercial spaces) are sitting vacant due to the high cost of rent – someone told me that one of the new restaurants in the Junction is paying $15K per month for it’s modest space.   Wow!   That new apartments with less than 1,000 sf are going for over $2,000/month – again…wow!   We can do better.    Let’s look to local developers that care about their community.  Does it make sense to have 1/2 your units empty because you’re charging too much?  Does it make sense to keep a commercial space vacant for over a year because you’re asking to too much?  Here is my proposal – if a new building cannot fill it’s space (whether commercial or rental) by at least 80%, then rents are automatically reduced by 10% every month that the units are vacant.  It motivates the owner to provide affordable housing and it actually provides housing to those that are looking.  That is it for now – I realize that my message covers a lot of ‘stuff’, but I just wanted to do a little venting.   I am confident that we can turn this around and build a better West Seattle. 

    • John August 9, 2016 (7:43 am)


      you ask, “ Is there no way restrict the # of boxes that a neighborhood can accommodate?”

      Great question.  What would that number be?

      And where has that number been exceeded?  Please cite a street?

      West Seattle housing stock is still overwhelmingly non-box.

      Housing booms of the past saw McMansions, mid-century,  the split level, the craftsman, the cheap post-war Seattle box, the contemporary,,,should they also be restricted?

  • WSB August 8, 2016 (12:14 pm)

    Tom – Thank you for your comment.

    One of your points I can address, since we report frequently on development proposals … Far more projects are by locals, than not. There certainly are some built by out-of-town concerns (especially when it comes to the bigger apartment buildings), but not all.  You can look up ownership through the King County Parcel Viewer, and the city DCI web lookups will tell you the builders and architects. – Tracy

    • Tom V August 8, 2016 (12:55 pm)

      Thanks Tracy – glad to hear that there is a mix of local and out of area developers/investors.  Mithun is a prominent architect in Seattle, so fingers crossed, they will help design a beautiful building and space.  If they’re listening, the further you can move the complex back from the street, the better :)  Its better for the tenants and those passing by, especially on busy Fauntleroy.   

  • Lissa Kramer August 21, 2016 (4:39 pm)

    5458 California:  I noticed that the planning department has yet to verify if this property has been flagged for historic review.  They also have not 

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