VIDEO: Myers Parcels tour with Councilmember Lisa Herbold, as key decisions near

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Story by Tracy Record
Photos by Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

The future of the Myers Way Parcels – 30+ acres of city-owned land on the southeastern edge of West Seattle – may be decided by the end of the year.

Updates on the timetable and process were part of the discussion as a group organized by City Councilmember Lisa Herbold toured the site on Thursday. Among them, two staffers from the city Finance and Administrative Services department, which is responsible for city-owned real estate like this, a site that’s been considered for many things, even, in 2008, the municipal jail that ultimately never got built.

The city didn’t even want most of this land when it was purchased back in the early 2000s, FAS’s Hillary Hamilton and Michael Ashbrook explained – just 10 acres for the nearby Joint Training Facility, which is in plain view next door to the north:

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Then-owner Nintendo of America would only sell the entire 50-acre parcel, so that’s what the city bought.

Now it is stuck in a multi-faceted tug-of-war:

Among those tugging are open-space advocates who say the chance to keep it undeveloped – as trees and wetlands and sprawling acreage – is an opportunity that won’t come again, and Mayor Murray, who declared last November that $5 million from a future Myers Parcels sale should go to help fund the city’s efforts to help people experiencing homelessness. And there are other financial considerations – some money is still owed on the land, as was explained in this WSB report in February 2015.

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Then there are environmental and health considerations, since it’s part of the polluted Duwamish River‘s watershed. In fact, as a reminder that water isn’t far, with the river downslope to the east, a shorebird (killdeer, we think) made a cameo during the tour:

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Birdsong could be heard everywhere – listen to our Instagram video (mouse over the window to find the play button, and click the image again to stop it), and that’s what you’ll hear along with some human chatter:

Tour participants included community members from Highland Park (HP Action Committee chair Gunner Scott), South Park (Paulina Lopez) and preschooler-age son Paul, and White Center (Marie Pino and Tony Vo from the WC Community Development Association), plus site neighbor David Eley, along with Mary Fleck from the WS-founded Seattle Green Spaces Coalition (which has a petition drive asking the city not to sell the land), as well as two City Council staffers – Andra Kranzler from Herbold’s staff and Nate Van Duzer from the office of City Councilmember Tim Burgess, who, Herbold pointed out, chairs the committee that will be tasked with the next consideration of the site’s fate.

In case you don’t know where the Myers Parcels are, here’s an aerial map from one of our stories last year:

(Click image to see city map of Myers Parcels as a full-size PDF)

And here’s a Google Map to the general location.

If you’ve only driven, rode, or walked by, you probably would be surprised at its size. Here’s another Instagram-video pan, this time what you see from the other side of the gate:

There are gravel roads through the site, and we walked back to a steep slope, really more like a cliff, that would admittedly be undevelopable. At the end of the tour, woods with wetlands – after our recent dry spell, the wetlands weren’t obvious:

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The FAS staffers explained that four wetlands around the Myers Parcels (which include land on the east side of Myers, as well as the west-side site we toured) were declared significant by the Army Corps of Engineers when it conducted a wetlands study (valid through 2017), though they’re not the only wetlands on the site.

THE PROCESS

Asked by Councilmember Herbold to detail the process for how the land’s fate will be determined, the FAS staffers said they’ve already asked other city departments if they have any interest: No. Seattle Parks, they explained, said it didn’t feel the need for more parkland in the area because of sizable Westcrest Park not far away.

They’ll soon be writing a “preliminary report” that will include information on the constraints and attributes of the site, and which of the city’s plans might “give guidance.”

Then, FAS would offer a “preliminary recommendation.”

Even before more public input? they were asked. Reply: “By framing an idea, you get reaction to that idea.”

The process of soliciting public comments – which, they stressed, are still welcome – is admittedly convoluted. If you’ve expressed interest in the site, you get notification – (Hilary) said that’s all the rules obligate them to do. The most recent round of concerns have involved the fact that it’s perceived many don’t know about this site, its publicly owned status, and its potential future sale. (We also pointed out that the webpages for the parcels don’t have much overview explaining what’s going on – you generally need to know what you’re looking for and what it means.)

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FAS will have to take a “communication plan” to the City Council before the next step of determining the site’s fate. They promised “community meetings” would be organized. It was suggested multiple times that those meetings be at or at least near the land – perhaps, at the Joint Training Facility, with walking tours?

The draft report on the site and the proposed “communications plan” will likely be brought to the City Council for a briefing within six weeks, according to FAS. The meetings would follow – likely in June and July. What happened at those meetings would result in a “report on public involvement.” The mayor would review that, and then a proposal for final disposition of the land would go to the Council as soon as September. Its decision on the site’s fate would require a public hearing.

Subsequent discussion included a note that any proposal for use of the property – ostensibly after a sale – would likely get more scrutiny because of the Duwamish River’s proximity. But, Councilmember Herbold pointed out, “the property is (currently) in our stewardship (so) this is the time to take a closer look.”

South Park’s Lopez also reminded the city reps of the Duwamish Valley Health Assessment.

By the way, some myth-debunking – while Lowe’s had a proposal to buy some of the site in 2006, and the council had signed off at the time, that proposal is “very dead,” said FAS. The company changed its mind and withdrew its proposal. Since sale of the land is not currently authorized, there are no formal negotiations going on, but they’ve had interest from companies looking for warehouse-suitable sites.

Some of what might have generated more public knowledge of and interest in the site, it was revealed, has been on hold pending possible development: The west end of the site includes a vacated street, and as part of that, there were stipulations for “respite” features atop the hillside, such as “respite” (maybe a picnic table) and information on the wetlands.

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While those stipulations apparently happened a decade ago, the FAS staffers acknowledged, the features hadn’t materialized, because it was expected they might become the responsibility of someone developing the site.

After an hour and a half of walking the gravel roads of the gated site, the tour ended, with no promises, but definitely a sense of urgency, and concern that the endgame for this site’s fate will play out over the summer months when many people in our region tend to have priorities other than paying rapt attention to civic matters.

Again, you can find out more about the Myers Way Parcels – at least, the city-provided basics – here. This notice explains how to comment (ignore the date – it was extended). If you have thoughts to share with Councilmember Herbold, on this issue or other(s), she is at lisa.herbold@seattle.gov and has another West Seattle “office hours” day coming up for in-person conversation, next Friday (May 20th), noon-7 pm, at Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, in the SW Teen Life Center/Pool building at 2801 SW Thistle.

19 Replies to "VIDEO: Myers Parcels tour with Councilmember Lisa Herbold, as key decisions near"

  • Pat May 13, 2016 (1:15 pm)

    What is a shame is that no one that was involved with the original purchase of the western parcels are still involved with the city. They have all retired. I was there and find some of the remarks coming from FAS a bit obtuse from what I remember from 15 years ago.

    • WSB May 13, 2016 (1:21 pm)

      And the mayor and City Council seats have all turned over from those who were in office at the time of the Lowe’s agreement – looking at the document (linked in this story – and then if you follow that link, there are links at the bottom of the legislation to the various docs in the purchase agreement, $9.7 million in 2005 – the most senior members of the current council were elected in ’07). – TR

  • Pat May 13, 2016 (6:52 pm)

    To be honest, I never expected the Lowes agreement to go the distance, predominantly due to the many environmental issues with the property. I believe the City was strongly supportive of the big box idea but the issues with the Joint Training Facility had to be a big turn-off for any big box In fact the JTF opened  under a black cloud with portions of the facility left undone at the time due to the Army Corps of Engineers issues with wetland violations. It was a long story that took a couple years to finally rectify. I’m not sure the JTF has finally cleared all of the environmental restrictions. There were many.

    • Name Cass Turnbull May 18, 2016 (9:49 pm)

               it seems odd to me that without anything having changed,  the land that had environmental issues is okay to build on now. There is probably a simple explanation.

  • canton May 13, 2016 (8:34 pm)

    Move the Westwood transit hub all down there, where busses, cars, and people, can have an easy place to “park and ride”. Right next to major north-south corridor to alleviate congestion from the south.

  • bolo May 13, 2016 (11:26 pm)

    Dog park!

  • John May 14, 2016 (9:00 am)

    Housing First!

  • Words May 16, 2016 (12:37 pm)

    Leave it wild.  Do nothing with it.  At all. 

  • Cass Turnbull May 18, 2016 (12:01 pm)

    The park district does not have the money to either buy or maintain the Myers property as a park. And it is not in the Parks ‘Gap’ analysis. But with 150,000 more people headed our way,  we will all be in the ‘gap’ soon. We should just refrain from selling it, keeping  it ‘land banked’ until such time it can become a public Green Space. Until then it will work as a green utility and a screen between housing and industrial zones.  And it certainly looks better than 13 acres of warehouses, still the most likely use of the land. This wouldn’t be happening if the 32 acres were between Laurelhurst and a major highway and industrial area. 

  • Dass Adams May 18, 2016 (12:01 pm)

    We’re running low on property that doesn’t have concrete and buildings on it. Developers don’t seem interested in leaving any open space, so we citizens must continue to demand that available land be kept open when possible: like City-owned land.  — Dass Adams

  • Jeanie May 18, 2016 (3:10 pm)

    Thank you, Dass Adams. I agree and will submit my comments.

  • Lorene Edwards Forkner May 18, 2016 (3:43 pm)

    Don’t underestimate the significance of the land just as it is now. Trees, wetlands, and open spaces are key factors in maintaining the livability of our urban environment. Their cooling shade, water filtration , and wildlife habitat provide a critical balance to sprawling concrete and offset urban heat island effect – a growing concern as our weather warms. Any development should proceed with these important environmental and human factors considered.

  • Pamela Zipp May 18, 2016 (5:39 pm)

      I agree with Lorene Forkner regarding the environment.  We need more open spaces for people to enjoy that are within the city that people can get to without going out of town.   People especially kids need open spaces to run and explore.  Seattle is turning into a concrete jungle.

    The wetlands need to be left alone as well as any healthy trees.  It looks like a perfect spot for hiking and biking trails away from busy traffic and noise.

  • Carolyn Cooper May 18, 2016 (7:25 pm)

    The best idea is to leave these parcels alone, just as they are, until Seattle’s city officials recognize, after they turn the rest of the city into an urban desert, that the present un“developed” condition of this place is its most valuable condition for the common good of Seattle people.  Let the birdsong be heard by those willing to listen and tell others about  it.

  • Mark May 18, 2016 (7:55 pm)

    Right now, the Seattle police are encouraging RV campers to stay there and doing nothing to keep them out, and their trash, all hours traffic in and out and dumping their waste.  You can see the RV’s in some of the pictures and video in this blog post.  Driving to work every morning down Myers Way is a constant sight of people going to the bathroom right there.  Then on the east side is our own version of the Jungle.  Years ago, they finally cleaned it up and pulled truckloads of trash out.  I can’t imagine the amount that is there now.

    I grew up in this neighborhood and remember when sand was being pulled out of here.  There were springs and streams and tons of wildlife.  I like the idea of it letting go back to nature but the huge area should be planted with native plants and somewhat restored, like they did by the first avenue bridge.  Then the biggest problem will be the campers moving in and taking over, just trashing the place for us all to clean up with our tax money. While I much prefer the trees and nature, I’m sick of people crapping in my neighborhood and dumping all over it.  A nice big development, like the Shag community is a huge improvement and will get rid of the homeless population.

    Please don’t hate on me for wanting to get rid of the homeless.  I have a much more progressive approach and would actually want more for them than having to camp in the woods or be provided tent city refugee camps like a country under siege by war.  How much are we spending to create these places and clean them up over and over?  I’d rather spend that money and even more to help the problem like the Travel Lodge temporary housing for families they just opened on the Amazon property on 6th Ave., north of Denny downtown.  That is a good model and good use of property and money.

  • Matthew Benedict May 18, 2016 (9:47 pm)

    I love the pictures of this area! I am in support of sustaining it’s beauty. =-)

  • Ruth Williams May 18, 2016 (10:48 pm)

    I’m very much in agreement with those who want to keep this land as a natural area or land-bank it until Parks can afford to to support it as a natural area.  With everyone running helter-skelter for density and no clear understanding or definition of what constitutes livability, there is no wiser move than preserving this open space as it is.  Social justice requires preserving natural areas where everyone, even people without cars, can enjoy nature and local forests.

    Thank you for publishing this article!

  • glen day May 20, 2016 (11:51 am)

    I live above all this land.  Used to be I could hear frogs and birds.  now I just hear birds, but I hear a lot of them.  and sometimes I see the little hares that live in the area, or raccoons or possums.  I even see coopers hawks and other hawks on occasion.  I like having

     the wildlife and and would much rather have them than factories or warehouses or, actually, anything else down there.  Besides I thought it was supposed to be that wetlands weren’t to be destroyed?  What happened to that idea?  And we do need the wild places if we don’t want to live drowning in flood runoff, and concrete heat, and just general overcrowded conditions.  Green is much nicer, and a feeling of isolation is much more refreshing and relaxing than crowds.

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