West Seattle, Washington
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight brought first word of the draft recommendations for what to do with the Myers Way Parcels, 30+ acres of city-owned land on the southeast edge of West Seattle.
The draft was unveiled at tonight’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting by the two city Finance and Administrative Services managers who led a tour of the site two weeks ago, organized by City Councilmember Lisa Herbold for community members (WSB coverage here).
During the tour, FAS’s Hillary Hamilton and Michael Ashbrook (left-center and right in the photo above) said they were close to finishing the draft. And now – it’s ready. They came to the HPAC meeting with a one-sheet that’s not available online yet (today’s downtown power outage set them back a bit) – here’s our transcription of the “draft property recommendations”:
The draft recommendation includes a balance of planning for future City needs, financial consideration of the outstanding loans on the property and enhancement or preservation of natural spaces:
*The property immediately south of the JTF (9401 Myers Way S)
This property is proposed to be used for a future expansion of parking and training areas at the JTF. Within 15 years, City will need to relocate city parking uses at the Arrowhead Gardens Apartments. Other training needs, such as driver-safety training and trench safety, have been identified.
*The properties south of Roxbury Street and north of the City Light Right of Way (9501 Myers Way S)
This property is proposed to be sold at fair-market value. It could be sold through a negotiated sale with a developer that supports community needs such as job creation or mixed-use activities. The property could be marketed with the use of a real-estate broker to facilitate a sale for such purposes while assuring appropriate financial compensation to the City.
*The properties south of the Seattle City Light Right of way and east of Myers Way (9600 and 9701 Myers Way S)
FAS will identify a purchaser who will preserve and enhance the natural environment of the property and complete a negotiated sale. Examples may include a land trust foundation that would permit public access for recreation and education, an adventure-park operator that would preserve trees and allow public access, or a commercial developer that would preserve or enhance the natural areas. If a sale is not completed within two years, then the property is proposed to be transferred to the Seattle Parks Department for green space. Parks would consider what level of public access would be suitable through their own processes and budget.
Hamilton noted that this is a big change from only a year or so ago, when “our idea was probably ‘let’s sell everything’,” but they heard community opposition to that.
With affordable housing something the city is very interested in helping create, Hamilton acknowledged questions about why this site wouldn’t be quickly earmarked for that. She explained that the “pink” heart of the site – the part proposed for selling for commercial uses – is the most buildable but not necessarily for housing because of cement-kiln dust contamination left over from fill brought to the site decades ago. The city’s affordable-housing experts “looked really hard” at it, she said, but along with the contamination, it also would require roads, sewers, electricity, and drainage, all of which would cost a lot. Sales of any part of the parcels is instead supposed to generate some income, not drain the city coffers. The new one-sheet includes some financials related to the land – saying it’s appraised at $14 million, and that “potential sales proceeds” would have to go toward:
-$1.3 million “outstanding balance on the loan used to purchase the property” (in 2003)
-$5 million “to pay interfund loan to assist homelessness” (as decreed by Mayor Murray last November)
-$500,000 “to reimburse the Dept. of Finance and Admin. Services for consultants and holding costs”
Elaborating on the greenspace potential in the southernmost section, Hamilton said the intention would be to “save the tree canopy” – and she mentioned that could be achievable in one of several ways, including the newly emerged adventure-park idea that is “newly on the table” (here’s our recent story about it). She summarized, “We see the blue area as somewhere that the trees would always be protected, one way or another.”
Subsequent concerns that came up at the HPAC meeting – which included attendees from the neighboring unincorporated Highline area too – included parts of the property currently being used by homeless campers, and the need for more transit in the area.
The FAS reps stress that the comment period is still open and people are welcome to say whatever they think should be done with the area, as well as what should be done with the money that would be brought in by selling any part of it.
Along with accepting comments in writing, they’re working on an event June 30th at the JTF, likely “an evening meeting where we’re going to talk some more” about the proposal, and listen to community comments. (That idea came up during the aforementioned tour.)
After they’ve gathered comments on these draft recommendations, a final recommendation will be drafted in the form that would have to be approved by the City Council. That, they expect, will happen in midsummer; then the legislation would go to the council for a vote in September, under the projected timeline.
We’ll update this story Thursday when we get digital copies of what was handed out tonight, and any other information/reaction.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The city-owned 30+ acres of southeast West Seattle land known as the Myers Way Parcels aren’t even officially up for sale – yet – but a prospective buyer has emerged with a new idea:
A commercial zipline-and-ropes-course park.
“My guy can provide the most elegant and simple solution to the whole problem,” declared Douglas Plager, who says he represents Brian Funtleyder, the owner of The Adventure Park at Long Island in Wheatley Heights, NY. “Leave the trees, clean out the trash, the Scotch broom, the blackberries, clear it all out, employ 40 or 50 people.”
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:
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:
Two developments in the ongoing issue of whether the city should sell the undeveloped Myers Parcels in southeastern West Seattle or, as advocates have long urged, keep all or part of the 30+-acre site as open space:
First, as reported here three weeks ago, today was supposed to be the deadline for the latest round of comments on the land’s fate. But that’s changed. The deadline’s being extended until at least early April, Julie Moore from the city’s Finance and Administrative Services department confirmed to WSB:
We just determined … that we would reissue the notice in the interest of reaching a broader community. We expect to get it out in early March, and the comment period will be extended for 30 days past the date of mailing. … All comments received by the new deadline are certain to be represented in the preliminary recommendation report, but as with every property disposition process, we will continue to accept all comments up to the point a final decision is made by City Council. Also, all parties providing contact information will continue to receive updates through the evaluation process, including notices for future community meetings and/or public hearings, publication of reports and City Council actions.
Here’s how to comment: E-mail Daniel Bretzke at firstname.lastname@example.org or send postal-mail comments to him via City of Seattle FAS, P.O. Box 94689, Seattle 98124-4689.
Second: The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition has launched an online petition asking city leaders not to sell the land. You can sign it here.
The city has made its next move toward potentially selling off most of the undeveloped land in the southeasternmost corner of West Seattle that’s known as the Myers Parcels.
It’s circulating this document declaring almost one and a half million square feet as surplus – three parcels on both sides of Myers, as shown above – and asking for your thoughts on what to do with it. (There’s a page for each parcel/address – 9501 Myers here, 9600 Myers here, 9701 Myers here.)
This has been in the works for years; one year ago, we reported on a citizen campaign gearing up in hopes of saving at least part of the site as parkland. But the city says its departments have evaluated it and weren’t interested.
The site is part of a former gravel pit purchased by the city in 2003, with part of the land becoming the Joint Training Facility. A commercial sale for part of the leftover land fell through, but the parcels remain zoned for “C2” commercial development up to 6 stories. When we wrote last year’s update, the city told us it had millions of dollars left to pay off on the land via a “bridge loan”; since then, the mayor announced last November that $5 million from the sale of unspecified property at the site would go toward the city’s efforts to help people without homes. (That money was being advanced via a different type of loan to be paid off with sale proceeds.)
A sale would require City Council approval. And first, the city is asking for your thoughts on the property’s future. The notice suggests directing those comments to Daniel Bretzke at email@example.com or by postal mail at City of Seattle – FAS, P.O. Box 94689, Seattle 98124-4689.
P.S. Thanks to the reader who tipped us about this after receiving a notice from the city, which hadn’t been sent to media.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Homelessness is an emergency, Mayor Ed Murray and County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed today. This excerpt from their announcement spells out why:
Last winter’s One Night Count found 3,772 men, women, and children without shelter in King County, including more than 2,800 in Seattle – a 21 percent increase over 2014. In 2015, 66 homeless people have died in King County, including 47 on the streets and in unpermitted encampments in Seattle. The state now reports that 35,000 people in King County become newly homeless at some point during the year.
Part of the declaration includes a city plan to spend $5 million more on getting people off the streets and, for those who are on the streets, covering some basic needs, like sanitation. The plan will be discussed at a special City Council meeting tomorrow, and is to be funded through the sale of city property in West Seattle, according to the city documents related to today’s announcement. From the Frequently Asked Questions document:
How is the City paying for this new investment?
The $5 million investment is funded from the proceeds of the sale of excess property located on Myers Way South.
We’ve reported in recent years about the city process of figuring out what to do with that land, the “Myers Parcels“ in southeast West Seattle, next to the Joint Training Facility. Some community advocates have lobbied for preserving some of it as greenspace, as reported here most recently back in February.
The city Finance and Administrative Services Department clarified, when we inquired, that the property hasn’t been sold yet. More on that later.
First, what today’s announcement means for helping homeless people:
Both Murray and Constantine signed emergency proclamations. Murray was quoted in the city announcement as saying, “The City is prepared to do more as the number of people in crisis continue to rise, but our federal and state partners must also do more. Cities cannot do this alone.” Constantine was quoted as saying, “Emergency declarations are associated with natural disasters, but the persistent and growing phenomenon of homelessness – here and nationwide – is a human-made crisis just as devastating to thousands as a flood or fire. We call on the federal and state governments to take action, including shouldering more responsibility for affordable housing, mental health treatment, and addiction services.”
Go here to see what the city is proposing, or read the details below:
On the county side, Constantine is proposing $2 million in spending, some of it “already pending before the King County Council, to address immediate human needs and the root causes of homelessness,” according to the news release, which adds that both entities already invest heavily: “The City of Seattle already invests more than $40 million annually to assist people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness, including single adults, youth, families, domestic violence survivors, older adults, and veterans. King County invests $36 million a year to assist individuals and families at-risk of or experiencing homelessness.”
That represents a bigger share of those services than ever, says the city announcement: “A decade ago, City resources represented less than 40 percent of the total funding for homelessness services. The City is now responsible for over 60 percent of homelessness investments.”
Thousands of those who need help are children, the city says:
There are 32,000 homeless children in Washington state, with nearly 3,000 homeless children currently attending Seattle Public Schools. On average, that’s more than 1 student per Seattle classroom.
The city announcement says they’re trying to be strategic with the spending:
The City is currently analyzing all homelessness investments and expanding data collection to ensure resources are targeted at the most effective strategies. Seattle is also launching a new effort to reduce administrative burden on agencies by allowing non-profit partners to provide a range of services under portfolio contracts, rather than separate contracts for each type of service.
We don’t know yet what share of the new funding might be spent in this area. We checked with one local agency that offers emergency help to people in crisis, West Seattle Helpline, whose executive director Chris Langeler told us it’s good news in general:
We are excited by Mayor Murray and Executive Constantine’s announcements today declaring a “State of Emergency” and new resources dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ending homelessness in Seattle and King County. The West Seattle Helpline has served hundreds of members of our community this year who are homeless or at-risk of experiencing homelessness by providing rent & utility assistance, transportation assistance, or clothing. With rents continuing to rise and utility costs increasing as winter approaches, we are seeing heightened demand for assistance and more of our neighbors facing the threat of eviction.
We have initiated a dialogue with the City of Seattle’s Department of Human Services and are exploring ways that we can work with the City to be a part of the solution to homelessness. We’re hopeful that the heightened focus and additional resources will help more of our West Seattle neighbors-in-need stay safe in their homes.
Now, back to the $5 million in city funding for extra services, described as coming from Myers Way sale proceeds. A document late in the day looking ahead to tomorrow’s meeting clarified that the $5 million will for starters come from an “interfund loan” out of the city’s “Cash Pool,” to be repaid from sale proceeds of some of the “Myers Parcels” land. That sale is still in the future, we found out from Cyndi Wilder in the city Finance and Administrative Services Department:
The Myers Way excess property has not yet been sold. The Myers Way property is still under active property review, meaning the City is working on strategies for the reuse and disposition of the property. We anticipate selling a portion of the site for commercial development, but a larger portion of the property, including certain wetlands and much of the tree canopy, would be retained for environmental protection. In 2016, the City Council will review legislation to authorize land to be retained and land to be sold. We understand that proceeds from the sale of any portion of the property not needed for identified future City purposes or retained for environmental protection would be directed toward the emergency response to homelessness. Information about the property is available here, and we’ll be updating that page with information about the property disposition as it becomes available.
Tomorrow’s meeting to finalize the emergency-response plan is at 2 pm at City Hall.
(Click image to see city map of Myers Parcels as a full-size PDF)
The community campaign to preserve an open-space area in the southeasternmost corner of West Seattle is ramping up and drawing new attention to the so-called “Myers Parcels” (map). A widely circulated announcement of an upcoming meeting describes the land south of the Joint Training Facility as possibly “the last large, undeveloped piece of property that could become a major park in Seattle.” The original announcement of the campaign last September was reported here; word of the new effort, including an organizational meeting, led us to check on the parcels’ current status.
First: We noticed that the Department of Planning and Development files for the site suggested Seattle Public Utilities was evaluating it as recently as last fall for possible relocation of its Wastewater and Drainage operations center. But when we checked with SPU on Wednesday, spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin told us the department is no longer considering using the site. So we moved on to the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which has responsibility for the site now. Spokesperson Julie Moore replied with background plus the status, and what’s expected to happen next:
The property was originally a gravel pit. At the time of purchase in 2003, the City intended to develop a portion as the Joint Training Facility and sell the remainder. The purchase was funded, in part, with a bridge loan for which the City now owes about $13 million. In 2006, the Seattle City Council, by ordinance 122308, declared 31 acres of the properties surplus and authorized a sale to Lowe’s, but that deal fell through. The sale transaction was not completed due to environmental and permitting issues. The subsequent downturn in the economy made a sale uneconomic.
As the recession eased, the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) obtained environmental studies to carefully document environmental assets such as wetlands and natural steep slopes.
In 2012, FAS circulated an excess property notice to City departments, and some have evaluated the site for potential City use, but have generally found it to be inappropriate for their operational purposes. FAS is now considering options for selling the undeveloped portion while preserving environmentally sensitive areas. The property is zoned for commercial uses, and sale proceeds will likely be enough to repay the $13 million bridge loan. FAS expects to make a recommendation on a sale strategy this year.
The 2012 “excess property notice” – see it here – includes that year’s total assessed value of the parcels, listed as $38 million.
Meantime, once FAS makes its recommendation, what happens? Moore’s explanation:
As with all property dispositions, FAS’s Real Estate Services (RES) follows the Seattle City Council-adopted policies and procedures for the review process. Once the process is complete, RES issues a final report, which includes RES’ recommendation regarding the property (typically to either retain the property for use by another City department or sell it), and presents it to the Mayor for review. If the Mayor concurs with the recommendation, the Mayor sends the report to the City Council, along with legislation authorizing the reuse or sale of the property. Only the City Council can make the final decision on reuse or disposition of City-owned real property. If the Council approves the recommendation for selling a property, the property is declared “surplus” and a sale proceeds.
You might recall that part of the site was on the list of potential city-jail locations back in 2008; ultimately, the city decided it didn’t need a new jail, and the entire plan was scrapped.
Back to the community campaign to keep the site as open space – here’s the meeting announcement:
You are invited to come to the first-ever gathering of SAVE MYERS PARK, on Saturday, March 14th, 10-noon, at the offices of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, 210 S. Hudson. Call or email Cass to confirm and for questions. 206-783-9093. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The announcement, which you can read in full as posted to the WSB Facebook page if you haven’t seen it elsewhere, also suggests that messages be sent to the mayor and City Council.
(Click image to see full-size aerial photo on city website)
The southeasternmost corner of West Seattle is along Myers Way, south of the east end of Roxbury. On both sides of Myers, which continues on into unincorporated North Highline, you’ll find vacant government-owned land – some state, mostly city – and a few other uses, such as the city’s Joint Training Facility (outlined in red on the city aerial view above).
On the Friends of Lincoln Park website, Mark Ahlness has written about a new suggestion for the city to keep 31+ acres of land in that area (outlined in orange above), as “Myers Park,” instead of selling it. It’s not a suggestion FROM his group, or from him, but they were contacted by the person proposing it, Cass Turnbull, a greenspace advocate known for work including founding Plant Amnesty. The city website says the area was declared surplus – and therefore sellable – in 2006. A sale fell through back then, but the city is still looking for one or more buyers, according to 2012 documents like this one, which included a city recommendation that one part of the site be kept, and the rest be sold to cover original acquisition costs (estimated at $13 million).
If you’re interested in getting involved in a campaign to keep it as open space, Turnbull’s contact information is included in the post on the FLP site.
We’re in the briefing room next to the mayor’s office at City Hall downtown. A media briefing with the next steps on the jail-site search process is about to begin – and we’ve just been given a list of the six sites that are now under consideration, including sites that other cities partnering with Seattle have brought to the process. The Myers Way South site in southeastern West Seattle is OFF the list, but the Highland Park Way/West Marginal Way site (Google Street View imagery above; here’s a conventional map) is still ON the list, along with two other Seattle sites (King County Jail Annex at 5th/Jefferson, and 1600 W. Armory Way), one in Bellevue, one in Shoreline, and one in “unincorporated King County” (13225 NE 126th). More after the briefing. Next steps include a series of public forums next month — none of which is set for West Seattle, though there will be a “scoping” meeting at South Seattle Community College January 13th as part of the environmental-review process. Also, a new website is mentioned in pre-briefing material: www.necmunicipaljail.org (though it’s not up as of this writing – the jail-process communications team says it should be up within the hour) — and the one-sheet given to the media says “no decisions will be made until 2010.” 10:23 AM UPDATE: The public forums, it’s been explained, are for the newly identified sites – West Seattle and Interbay already had forums. The aforementioned website has just gone live, and it includes this link to the official news release from today’s briefing. Seattle spokesperson Catherine Cornwall, who has led this briefing, says the studies explaining why the Myers Way site is off the table and Marginal/Highland still on, are on the new website (we will search out direct links shortly). One of the big reasons why Myers is off the list, Cornwall added, is a concern about wetlands in the area. Here’s our video clip with her explanation:
(video no longer available due to Blip.tv’s closure)
ADDED 12:45 PM: Just in – a statement from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine.
“I’m very pleased with today’s announcement. The Myers Way site has been removed from the list, in part because of the environmental issues – issues which I also cited in my June 2 letter to Mayor Nickels. I wish the Highland Park Way site was not still on the list. Instead of a Seattle-only effort, this is now a regional process with King County and suburban cities having a seat at the table. The expanded site list now includes possible locations across the region. I am particularly happy to see promising sites on the Eastside, and in Downtown Seattle adjacent to our existing jail.”
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: The city’s jail-site communications team calls our attention to the Resources page on the new jail-info website, if you’re looking for various studies and reviews, including analysis of why the Myers Way site was taken off the list, while the Highland Park Way/Marginal Way site is still under consideration.
The city has just set the dates for feedback on the four potential municipal-misdemeanor jail sites (which include two in eastern West Seattle, as we’ve been reporting; most recent WSB coverage here) – the forum in WS will be 9 am July 26 in Brockey Center at South Seattle Community College, but a June 26 forum in South Park also is supposed to focus on the Marginal Way and Myers Way sites. Here’s the full text of the city announcement:
Seattle seeks feedback on possible municipal jail sites
Four dates set for public forums
SEATTLE – The city of Seattle announced today it will hold public forums around the city to provide information and hear feedback about possible sites for a new Seattle Municipal Jail. While residents are welcome to attend any of the forums, each will focus primarily on a specific potential jail site, as outlined below. The forum dates and locations are:
Thursday, June 26, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Aerospace Machinists Union Hall A, located at 9125 15th Place S. [map] â€“ focus: West Marginal Way and Myers Way sites
Saturday, July 12, from 9 a.m. to noon, in the Wellness Center at North Seattle Community College at 9600 College Way N.â€“ focus: Aurora site
Saturday, July 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, in the Brockey Conference Center at South Seattle Community College, located at 6000 16th Ave. S.W. â€“ focus: West Marginal Way and Myers Way sites
Wednesday, July 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, located at 225 Mercer Street â€“ focus: Interbay site.
As mentioned here last night, the city has narrowed its list of potential municipal jail sites to four, and two are on the eastern edge of West Seattle, as seen in city aerials above — Highland Park Way/W. Marginal Way (map) and 9501 Myers Way (map). For those seeking more information and opportunities for feedback, a new section is live on the city website (here’s the start page) with everything from the reason why the jail’s needed, to the rationale behind the site-selection process, to how to send in feedback (online form here). The timeline for the process (choose a site this year, open in 2013) is outlined here. As pointed out in this WSB Forum thread, the jail proposal may well come up at tonight’s Southwest District Council meeting (7 pm, President’s Board Room at SSCC) since Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will be there; we just checked with his staff and he doesn’t have an official position yet on where the jail should be built (the two non-WS options are Interbay and 11762 Aurora).
*We first told you yesterday morning about the deaths of a couple in a 2nd/Roxbury home. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office confirms it was a case of murder-suicide; 48-year-old Traci Creamer, the first person murdered in West Seattle in 2008, died of head injuries and suspected strangulation blamed on her 44-year-old husband Jeffrey Creamer, whose death from wrist wounds was ruled a suicide. As we reported yesterday, police say they had a long history of domestic violence. Online court records we checked appear to bear that out.
*The city’s list of more than 30 potential jail sites for misdemeanor offenders is down to four, and two are on the eastern edge of West Seattle: Highland Park Way/W. Marginal Way (map) and 9501 Myers Way (map). According to Delridge Neighborhood Services Center Coordinator Ron Angeles, community meetings are expected this summer.