Update on ex-substations’ future, as West Seattle Green Space Coalition meets again today

What will be done with those six long-shuttered substation sites in West Seattle, declared surplus by City Light?

Today is your next chance to check out/get involved with the citizens group asking the city to slow down the process so that neighborhoods can help determine the sites’ future, the West Seattle Green Space Coalition. Its meeting is open to all, 3 pm at the Senior Center of West Seattle in The Junction (California/Oregon).

Earlier this month, the City Council’s Energy Committee, chaired by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, was briefed on where the substation-disposition process stands. What you see above is the presentation prepared for that committee and a meeting later in the day of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission, providing a thorough overview of the group’s efforts and each of the six sites. (Thanks to coalition member Michael Oxman for providing the slide deck, and pointing us to this city webpage where you can hear archived audio of the commission meeting as well as see its draft notes.)

Here’s the map of the sites (including 3 outside West Seattle) whose fate is being decided, in case you’ve missed earlier coverage of the process:

And here’s archived Seattle Channel video of the recent Energy Committee meeting:

The WSGSC’s Mary Fleck participated in the briefing; Carolyn Stauffer of the Highland Park Action Committee spoke during the public-comment period at the start of the meeting. HPAC is asking the city to rezone the Dumar site, southwest corner of 16th/Holden, to NC1-30, to create more much-needed commercial space in that crossroads area of Highland Park, as a potential “anchor for a commercial hub.” Fleck tells WSB that WSGSC agrees “the future of the ex-substation properties must take into account the needs of each neighborhood. Each site and each community is unique.”

The WSGSC wants a “moratorium on transferring these parcels for development”, as well as a study on the environmental/economic effects of selling them – the “real value,” not just dollar signs.

West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen was at the Energy Committee meeting, though he is not a regular committee member. He has met with the coalition, including the recent tour of some of the sites. Fleck says he has suggested “that the City may want to consider some kind of a land trust for small parcels, sort of like the P-Patch trust, but for open space instead of gardening,” and the coalition hopes to explore that, since it “might make very good sense for these small, open-space areas.” (The Parks Department already has taken a pass on them.)

Another possibility, explains Fleck: “The Urban Forestry Commission is keenly aware of the need to protect and expand our green tree canopy. The commission Chair, Pam Staeheli, asked Seattle City Light to provide information about the tree cutting it does every year. She asked about using the ex-substation sites for mitigation to compensate for the cutting which SCL does. The Urban Forest Commission is going to follow up with the City’s Law Department to research the feasibility of using the sites for mitigation.”

Mentioned during the council-committee meeting was the possibility that King County Wastewater Treatment District, which has been working on combined-sewer-overflow and drainage issues, might want the 9th Avenue SW site known as “White Center” (though it is in the city).

Until coalition members got involved, the process appeared to be proceeding down the road that has been used in earlier disposition processes – resulting in most of the sites being offered for sale, then purchased by housing developers. They also have taken issue with two of the sites being stripped of greenery as part of what the city says is cleanup required by state rules; City Light is trying a different method for the next cleanups, including the Fauntleroy and Dakota (Genesee Hill) sites, that should not require tree removal.

As Rasmussen noted, the property cannot be sold without City Council approval. Committee chair Sawant promised to “continue the conversation.” City Light’s Lynn Best said that they don’t expect to bring a disposition proposal to the council before the third quarter (July-September) of this year.

Whatever happens here, other neighborhoods are likely taken note, as City Light says there are up to 20 other sites around the city likely to be surplussed, and more as they continue upgrading and converting the power system.

Again, your next chance to get involved with WSGSC’s work on this is today (Sunday, March 23rd), 3 pm at the Senior Center in The Junction. The coalition’s website calendar notes that the center’s regular doors are locked, so you will need to enter through the Stop n Shop thrift store on California just south of Oregon.

3 Replies to "Update on ex-substations' future, as West Seattle Green Space Coalition meets again today"

  • trying! March 24, 2014 (7:34 am)

    With every lot in our West Seattle neighborhoods seemingly being leveled and used for building we NEED to save some green spaces! Once they are all gone, they are gone! We can’t get them back.

  • Realist March 27, 2014 (6:54 pm)

    I can’t imagine how much more city light has to pay for environmental cleanup now that a few people who live next to these sites started to complain. It would be interesting to see who makes up WSGSC.

    Personally I believe it makes more sense to sell these sites and raise easy money for SCL rather than spending extra money to clean them up without removing trees.

  • WSB March 27, 2014 (7:01 pm)

    The steering committee is listed on the slide deck at the very start of this story, if you really care – just scroll through.

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