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Still no winners in Madison Valley PCC mixed-use battle

Seattle YIMBYs are still basking in the fuzzy afterglow of victory in the expansion of the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability plan and upzoning in its densest neighborhoods. But there is one District 3 front in the city’s war over development where neither side is ready to declare a winner even though it seems the battles could finally be over.

In late February, the Seattle Hearing Examiner ruled in favor of developer Velmeir Companies that its plans for a six-story, mixed-use apartment building, anchored by a new PCC grocery store in the heart of Madison Valley were in line with the State Environmental Policy Act. Community group Save Madison Valley had asked the examiner to reverse design review approval and the city’s determination on the project’s environmental impact and require the development to undergo new rounds of costly, time consuming review,

But officials at Velmeir aren’t ready to celebrate a groundbreaking.

It’s not because the developer must still work out a few issues over sunlight and neighboring p-patches identified by the Hearing Examiner.

Velmeir vice president Geza de Gall declined to comment on the decision as the company remains in wait and see mode until the Save Madison Valley group finally puts up the white flag of surrender.

They have good reason to be cautious. The fight with Save Madison Valley has dragged on for years including a seemingly neverending design review process that brought in everyone from Seattle anti-development thought leader Peter Steinbrueck to Madison Valley restaurateur Thierry Rautureau, The Chef In The Hat, to speak against the project.

CHS first reported on the rumblings of redevelopment in Madison Valley in March of 2016 as word spread that City People’s, the neighborhood’s beloved garden shop, was going to be displaced by a new mixed-use project. But this wasn’t your typical displacement. The longtime owners of City People’s and its unusually large tract of E Madison land said the decision to sell came with much more caution about picking a developer to work with after watching with surprise and disappointment when the garden store partners previously sold their 15th Ave E home only to see a Walgreens rise on the property. Three years later, City People’s is still open under new ownership. The development? Well, it’s coming.

But first, Save Madison Valley needs to decide what it will do next. “We still think we have a solid case to make in the areas the Examiner did not intervene (height, bulk and scale, trees, and traffic) and are ready to go the final step and appeal to the Superior Court,” the group’s latest update reads. “Our attorneys are ready to support us. Now we’d like to hear from you.”

“Let us know what you think — send us your thoughts, a thumbs up… Are you with us for this final leg of the journey, working to protect the vibrancy and livability of our neighborhood? Your thoughts and donations are very much appreciated.”

So far, there is no record of a lawsuit being filed. Save Madison Valley has not responded to our inquires about its plans.

As for the project, there are few updates to report. The sale agreement for the property remains in place but the deal also remains in limbo so there is no final price tag. The project is permitted and designed for a six-story, mixed-use building with 82 market-rate apartments above a 25,000-square-foot PCC grocery store, and underground parking for some 140 vehicles.

The Hearing Examiner’s decision is below.

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40 thoughts on “Still no winners in Madison Valley PCC mixed-use battle

    • I was just thinking the same thing. Going there over the weekend and picking up some plants for the P-Patch is something I’m going to miss so much. I felt like a winner indeed.

    • It’s not practical or tenable to have a large undeveloped lot like this in a central neighborhood on a major arterial.

      It’s just not justifiable.

      It’s time that this project get moving.

      • It’s not “undeveloped.” City People’s is a vibrant, important part of the community, and a very viable business.

      • It’s undeveloped given what this city needs.

        Having a large lot like this sitting, essentially, fallow is inexcusable.

  1. In regard to your glib smearing of Peter Steinbrueck: arguing that a proposal does not satisfy the design guidelines is not being “anti-development.”

  2. When will this project get underway?

    We need housing and this project will add so much to the neighborhood…these SMV people really need to stand down.

    And let’s be clear here: the arguments of SMV are completely disingenuous. The group is not acting in good faith with the so-called “complaints”, and the real goal is to prevent this project from ever happening, in any form.

    Now, apparently, the developer has put the project on hold thanks to this group’s strategy of maximal resistance?


    In a city with a housing crisis, having a large undeveloped lot like the City People’s property is simply not tenable.

    Those behind SMV should be ashamed of themselves and should be (1) shamed into silence for there bad faith “complaints” and (2) it’s really time for the city to say “we’ve heard your complaints SMV, we’ve rejected them, and now it’s time to move forward.

    Get. This. Project. Moving.

      • I know…we will see.

        It is clearly justified. At this point eh SMV positions are just ridiculous.

        I mean, they are still talking about the residential-facing side of the project as a “wall of concrete” which was never really the case and was, like, 4 different iterations of the design ago…just ridiculous and proof that these people don’t have a rhetorical leg to stand on.

    • I completely agree. Speaking as a Madison Valley resident, my home located a trivially easy walk from City People’s, it’s seemed to me for a while that the “Save Madison Valley” group is actually Madison Valley’s biggest current problem. The city is growing and we need to grow with it. It makes no sense to forcibly preserve this quiet little suburban pocket in amber when we’re so close to downtown and have so much potential to absorb a growing population which would otherwise be forced out to distant suburbs.

  3. Please build it already. We need to housing, and having a PCC in this part of town would be great to have as an option too.

    • Not everyone is eager to deal with a traffic policeman guided mess (even the builder says a traffic cop will be needed) just so folks like you can shop at a rich people grocery store or rent $4000 apartments.

  4. I live in Madison Valley, pretty close to this location. I want this project to move forward. SMV is not representative of the entire neighborhood. Many of us have also spoken in favor of the project. SMV is basically 2-3 households that are holding this entire development hostage. We need housing, of all kinds and price ranges, in this city. A grocery store will be a great amenity and makes the neighborhood more walkable. SMV is basically opposed to any and all development taking place here, but we are a growing city and things change. I love City Peoples and have been a customer of theirs for years, but given our current growth it makes no sense to have that large area taken up with a gardening store (the majority of which is CLOSED DOWN FOR THE WINTER, meaning it just sits there empty and idle).

    This is a classic example of just a few self-serving households (that are too scared to even put their own names on any of their materials) grinding things to a halt and driving up costs in the process. SMV needs to stop.

      • Data, please.

        Are permit decisions for projects that clearly comply with the goals of design review from the get-go commonly appealed? This one is not that.

    • Thank you.

      This is EXACTLY what is happening.

      I mean, it’s clear that all the complaints brought up by SMV are UTTERLY without merit…and, when addressed, they just come up with some other fabricated complaint.

      And why?

      Because saying “I am against any and all change” isn’t a tenable argument…so they just make up ridiculous complaint after ridiculous complaint.

      And, as you say, they are too ashamed to put their names to this stance, hiding behind the SMV name…which is galling because they (falsely!) claim too speak for the neighborhood…when they very much do not.

    • The names of the SMV primary folks are public record if you bother to look. Meanwhile, I too live nearby and I and about 500 other people who showed up at the public meeting very much oppose this too-large for the lot monstrosity that will have noisy refrigeration and heating units on the roof going 24/7 and create a traffic nightmare, for the sake of a rich people grocery story and apartments no one I know can afford. One oversized building on a narrow, bottle neck arterial isn’t going to magically solve the housing crisis. So why not just be honest and admit that you don’t care how this impacts your neighbors, you just want to walk to PCC to buy artisan mustard and shite.

  5. “2-3 households…too scared to even put their own names on any of their materials”?

    Far more people than that spoke publicly against the project in design review hearings and many identified themselves in the process.

    • SMV claims to speak for the majority when they most certainly do not.

      That is not up for debate.

      And let me cut you off: If you’re claiming they speak for the majority of the neighborhood’s residents, you’re factually wrong. So sit down.

      • Clearly the vast majority of people speaking opposed the project (or parts of the project). So, you’re just wrong.

        Yeah, maybe people support it didn’t bother to show up. But that’s how democracy works. You can sit behind your keyboard and complain all day — nobody cares — you have to show up.

        By the way, people can’t stop a project just because they don’t like it. They have to make a legal case and political case — if this project was reasonable, it would have been approved years ago. But the developer is greedy and doesn’t care about the neighborhood. And why would they care? They’re from the Midwest, not Seattle.

      • Troll much? The majority at the 1st public meeting and at the design reviews were against the project. The community council president lost her position over it. You are not right just because you say “sit down.”

  6. The same thing is happening on Union and 23rd where long reviews and re submissions are delaying the start dates. I understand that it takes time, but let’s get the ball rolling already. Nobody wins when projects are in limbo for this long.

  7. Seattle needs more AFFORDABLE housing. Rental vacancies are currently 8-10%. There are plenty of empty high end apartments in the area.

  8. I was at the first meeting of residents & City People’s at Cafe Flora when the City people deal was announced. Fact is, the original owners of City people’s wanted out regardless; the guy that ran it took it over but was realistic in saying that City People couldn’t stay at the site anyway, due to cost, taxes, and the rather dire problems with their old building. At that meeting there were two rather vehement protests: one by people who simply wanted City people’s to stay and life go on as always, and more tellingly a couple people from the almost-new, large 4-story condominiums directly across the street. They made some loud objections to destroying the neighborhood, the environmental impact, and the supposedly dangerous and unstable ground beneath City People’s — even though they are living in essentially the same kind of large, “disruptive” structure, built on the very same slope and soil!. To me, it seemed patently obvious as I listened that their real unspoken complaint was to have their own nice & open southern view over City People’s blocked by the new development.

    I’ve read the latest decision; the only outstanding items the judge wanted addressed was a minor issue with the pipes for water drainage, and to make sure enough was done to lessen any impacts of shade on the P-patch just below the development. Everything else the Save Madison Valley people tried to argue was dismissed.

    The group doing the actual fighting of this project seems pretty small; whoever keeps pressing onward seems likely to be one or two disgruntled but rather well-off homeowners. All this lawyering takes money, and that’s not coming from the little guys.

    • Hear, hear! I live a block away from this, on Dewey, and the SMV folks don’t speak for me. It’s time to get this project moving!

    • Totally agreed.

      Disgruntled but well off is right…which is why those few funding this fight are hiding behind the SMV moniker…it’s sort of maddening to have what is essentially a Potemkin group claim to represent the neighborhood.

      ALL of the “issues” they raise are just pure bs designed to hide their real motivations.

      Time to push this small group aside and get building.

  9. Build baby build! There is no good reason that Ballard, Cap Hill, etc get up-zoned and other neighborhoods do not.

    If I were going to fight anything in Madison Valley it would be shuttering the Red Onion.