West Seattle surplus ex-substations about to go up for sale, if council says OK

ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:29 AM: The community coalition that’s been trying to convince the city not to sell off a group of ex-substation sites, mostly in West Seattle – saying we’ll regret the lost open space – has just discovered that a decision is near.

At Wednesday morning’s meeting of the City Council Energy Committee, City Light will ask official permission to sell eight sites (there originally were nine, but one in the Rainier Valley has been transferred to Seattle Public Utilities). Aerial views and addresses of the sites are here. Two (in south Highland Park, below, and Burien) are planned for sales to other public agencies:

Two (in Fauntleroy and Delridge, below) might go to community non-profits:

The other four (three in West Seattle, below – in Genesee Hill, Pigeon Point, and north Highland Park – one in SeaTac) will, at this point, just plain go up for sale:

Here’s the slide deck the council committee will be shown:

(Other meeting documents are here.)

This all goes back more than two years; in summer of 2013, Seattle City Light announced it was “studying” what to do with the surplus substations. A formal public hearing was held in fall 2013. Individual community groups took a look at the sites in their respective areas, such as the Highland Park Action Committee‘s discussion of the Dumar site in September 2013; the Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council has been focused on the Dakota site’s fate. The two nonprofits hoping to purchase sites are the Fauntleroy Community Association, looking at raising money to buy the Fauntleroy site, and Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, hoping to get the Delridge site.

Sale of the remaining four would bring $1.2 million into the city treasury, SCL estimates, adding that – as noted in the slide deck – they’ve already asked other city departments, including Parks, about their interest, and found no takers, aside from the aforementioned SPU transfer.

The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition – founded as the West Seattle GSC, focusing on the substation sites but expanding citywide to advocate for open-space preservation – says it didn’t even get notification this was coming up for council consideration this week, but rather found out by reading the committee agenda sent out at the end of last week. It’s asking supporters to contact the mayor and the council, which certainly can be done with any opinion on the proposed sale, pro or con. As with most council committee meetings, there’ll be a public-comment period on Wednesday as the 9:30 am meeting gets under way; it’ll be shown live via Seattle Channel, cable channel 21 and online at seattlechannel.org. Once the committee has considered the City Light recommendation, it’ll move on to the full council for a final vote.

ADDED 12:10 PM: City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen clarifies the process: This Wednesday’s Energy Committee meeting is when the bill to “dispose” of the surplus ex-substations will be introduced; a briefing is planned but not a vote – that would come at a subsequent meeting. Also, reviewing the full agenda, this item IS listed as an official “public hearing.”

34 Replies to "West Seattle surplus ex-substations about to go up for sale, if council says OK"

  • Mary Fleck September 21, 2015 (11:17 am)

    Some neighbors have proposed that the site across from the future Genesee Hill School be used for the community, such as a butterfly garden or place for children to study nature. Over 600 students will be at the new school. The old Pathfinder lower field (used for camp fires, camping, play and unofficial dog park) has been sacrificed for a parking lot.
    If you care, tell City Council!

  • Vienna September 21, 2015 (12:08 pm)

    Unless folks have a very solid financial plan for maintenance I’m concerned that the best intentions often give way to blight after the initial buzz of community involvement wears off. The “invisible hand” of economics should be allowed to play out and these properties will find their best use.

  • onion September 21, 2015 (12:31 pm)

    Affordable housing? Granted these properties would provide a drop in the bucket against the need, but still…..

  • old timer September 21, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    IMO, these should not be ‘open space’ which will just bring maintenance, vagrancy, and safety issues.
    Why not use them to build really affordable housing?
    Get the younger architectural and engineering students to come up with some innovative, low cost building methods, materials, and procedures.
    Try one at first to see how it goes, and then if things work out, develop the others in a similar manner. Put some of that money that the city is collecting for ‘affordable housing’ to visible, community oriented use.

  • Protect Our Future September 21, 2015 (12:49 pm)

    DON’T SELL. Assign the properties to Seattle Parks Department to manage and maintain for public rentals, same as Camp Long, etc. are now.
    We don’t need more high rise apartments!
    Let’s keep these properties owned by the community!

  • West Seattle since 1979 September 21, 2015 (1:20 pm)

    Affordable housing!

  • Jeff September 21, 2015 (1:33 pm)

    None of these sites are big enough for a decent park or housing project. 1-2 units at most. Sell them to the highest bidder.

  • Paula September 21, 2015 (2:06 pm)

    The city is currently working on a Greenway (safety improvements for bikes and walkers)that will go right past the SW Andover & 21st Ave SW sub-station site. I believe the site should included in that plan as a rest station – perhaps as a 2nd stage. Andover is a steep 3 blk long hill that bus riders on Pigeon Point walk up and down to gain access to the bus line on Delridge. Also, 21st Ave SW/SW Andover/22nd Ave SW leads to bike access over the Low Level West Seattle Bridge to downtown and to points East (South Park,Georgetown). Nothing extravagant: water fountain, benches, and perhaps a weather shelter.

  • Mcbride September 21, 2015 (2:42 pm)

    There is very little unallocated space left in Seattle, and very good reasons for preserving land in the public trust. Arguments for or against these benefits aside, the City should buy these properties (from itself) for purely strategic purposes.

  • D Del Rio September 21, 2015 (2:56 pm)

    Affordable housing, not just low income, but for the middle class that is being priced out of the city too.

  • karen Lyons September 21, 2015 (3:08 pm)

    REmember this summer. More and more cities are becoming heat sinks because of the paving over of greenspaces and trees. Trees also help clean the air and lessen the effects of auto pollution. Look, again, at these overhead photos. Most seem like important green areas for these neighborhoods.

  • Ová September 21, 2015 (3:10 pm)

    I love Paula’s suggestion for the Andover & 21st substation. A rest station with benches & weather shelter would be helpful for those commuting by bike & would maintain green open space-which adds to our whole community.

  • Mongo September 21, 2015 (3:59 pm)

    Just once, I would like to see someone who proposes doing something like this that will consume public funds actually indicate where they would reallocated those funds from other areas of the budget. What other existing priority would you de-fund to pay for this?

  • flimflam September 21, 2015 (4:04 pm)

    if they aren’t sold, you can assuredly expect a homeless camp to arrive in those locations via the mayor/council. pick your poison…

  • karen Lyons September 21, 2015 (5:06 pm)

    These substations have been empty for more than 5 years. I’ve seen most of them and I, also, have not heard of any homeless camps. I have heard of kids playing in them and about some people planting a pumpkin patch at the Dakota substation. They also contain some very valuable trees that SCL planted when establishing the substations.

  • martin September 21, 2015 (5:07 pm)


  • ??? September 21, 2015 (5:16 pm)

    Wonder why the largest property is appraised at the lowest price.

  • bob September 21, 2015 (5:19 pm)

    Please sell them. Flimflam is right. They’ll turn them into tent cities.

  • chemist September 21, 2015 (6:48 pm)

    ???, maybe they’re required to keep the large trees. The Dumar substation right across from a 7-11 and the fire station is also pretty low priced too.

  • Azimuth September 21, 2015 (7:16 pm)

    Every neighborhood could always use more small parks, tennis courts, dog parks, pea patches, water parks, and so on. It will be harder and much more expensive to add these types of small spaces once they sold off. Maybe the city departments don’t need these spaces now, but long term we will be glad to have them.

  • Claudia September 21, 2015 (8:38 pm)

    Somebody tell me what “affordable housing” is? Is the city going to keep it and maintain it as low income housing? Really? And there are concerns about the cost of keeping it as a park? Again, explain to me how you keep a property as affordable housing. I live near the property by the ferry and it’s probably worth $1,000,000. What should the city do with that house?

    • WSB September 21, 2015 (9:09 pm)

      Claudia, which property are you referring to? There’s no house on the Fauntleroy site – it’s certainly next to houses, but doesn’t contain one. As shown in the image we screengrabbed from the city document, with the aerial photo, it’s valued at $245,000. Zoned single-family 5000, so without rezoning or some other kind of change, it might not be usable for “affordable housing” as it’s usually described – but some of the other sites have multifamily zoning. – TR

  • Kay K September 22, 2015 (8:12 am)

    What happened to listening each neighborhood’s ideas for what is needed. North Highland Park site is perfect to rezone and add to our tiny walkable “commercial” district. It could be a retail site with apartments above.

  • John September 22, 2015 (9:12 am)

    The problem with listening to each neighborhood’s ideas are many fold.
    Among them is lack of funding, lack of legality (zone changes), and lack of widespread support.
    Ask anyone struggling to find a place to live what is important, they will respond ,

    Ask anyone comfortably ensconced in their neighborhood the same , ‘what’s important?’, their reply becomes the likes of pocket parks, resting places on a 200 foot hill, butterfly sanctuaries, ‘valuable trees’, and ‘important’ green areas.

    I only wish the organization that has spent so much energy pursuing these surplus sites had spent it educating the public and lobbying to replace lawns with indigenous ground covers and trees. This would do far more for our environment.

  • Cs in hp September 22, 2015 (9:19 am)

    Yes- kay k, we (hpac) are still working on trying to change the zoning on that Dumar site- SCL would get more money for the site, community would get a step in the right direction for creating a walkable neighborhood- a win win!

  • Claudia September 22, 2015 (9:29 am)

    The Fauntleroy site next to the ferry dock is not shown above. It is a White House just north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock. I can assure you it is not worth $245,000. Certainly many of its neighbors are interested in what will come of it and a few certainly would like to take it off the city’s hands. Preferably for a song. I saw them practicing their scales as of late.

    • WSB September 22, 2015 (9:38 am)

      Claudia – now I know what house you are referring to, just north of Cove Park, right? That’s not part of this process; it’s not a former substation, and it’s not even city owned. The county purchased it as part of the Barton Pump Station Upgrade process. http://info.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/eRealProperty/Detail.aspx?ParcelNbr=3524039112 ** Good question about the plans for its future – I’ll ask the KC Wastewater Treatment Division. – TR

      • WSB September 22, 2015 (10:19 am)

        UPDATE, I got a quick reply from the KCWTD, with whom we’ve been talking a lot lately due to a variety of stories … Spokesperson Annie Kolb-Nelson says, “WTD has “surplussed” the property, which means that King County’s Facilities Management Division is seeking a buyer. It’s our understanding that the city has expressed interest, but no terms or deal has been reached. If the city does not move forward with an offer, the property will be put on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for sale to the public.” I will be pursuing info from the city now, prior to a separate story, but wanted to post here since you brought it up – Tracy

  • Mcbride September 22, 2015 (10:04 am)

    1.2 million (from the City’s one billion dollar general fund) is a rounding error, not a cataclysmic defunding scenario. Here’s a link to the mayor’s proposed 2015-6 budget, I’m sure anyone could find a reason in there for the City to transfer itself the funds.
    This would allow additional time to actually discuss things like, say, affordable housing. Or parks. Or sale (at a profit) to an organization with a well developed funding and maintenece plan. In the interim, the space(s) could be as P-patches, or a quick chain link fence gets you a dog park, or any number of other highly beneficial dedicated use areas.
    It would be nice to see the City take a moment and consider the possibilities. I think we can do better than hand it off to developers. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

  • John September 22, 2015 (10:35 am)

    The old adage, “when it’s gone, its gone” was once again proven wrong here in Gatewood with a new privately donated and reclaimed (house removed) park.
    That is the example, we should pursue.
    If small issue limited land groups want land for their proposals, they should purchase them. These are a few small parcels, but the principle is what will be compromised.

    A couple of points, nearly all of these lots currently do have high chain link fences surrounding an empty cleared area with an outside perimeter edging of landscaping with no ‘Exceptional Trees’.
    They have regularly been serviced by City Light That is why we see no homeless in them. The South Highland Park parcel had deteriorated into a car stripping, oil changing dump and car lot before City Light cleaned it up and fenced it off a year ago.
    The Delridge site is a flooding lowland which discourages homeless camping and would be a good investment for one of these groups.
    Finally the city has paused for several years to gather and discuss this in the ‘Seattle Process’, people have been given the opportunity to participate over and over. Just one group has spent countless weekends holding meetings at libraries and soliciting support at farmers markets. The city has already taken its Seattle Moment and paused long enough.

  • Pete September 22, 2015 (2:01 pm)

    John, you state just one group has spent countless weekends holding meetings……this is not even close to being correct. Countless other folks in West Seattle have spent a lot of time over the last several years working on this issue. If we were just to tie up on these items we would never accomplish anything. A prime example is the effort put forth on the Soundways property that the city wanted to sell to developers. the community resisted this effort and the communities efforts resulted in the property now being part of the West Duwamich green belt. We could have easily said oh it is to mouth to take on but through the communities efforts we accomplished something to protect green space for generations to come. We need to stand up now and do the same thing.

  • Mcbride September 22, 2015 (2:11 pm)

    Heh. Point taken. I probably should have said “When it’s gone, it might only be gone for 100 years, but probably forever.”
    Regarding the Seattle Process. It’s been my observation that dialog begins in earnest right around the time it’s announced that the conversation time is over. Unfortunate, but it appears that’s just how we are. I’ve long felt the City should just start the process by announcing it’s over and going from there. Save a ton of effort on outreach. (Has it been several years? Seems more like one to me, but time flies.)
    Nevertheless, here we are, ripe with opportunity and poised to squander it. That’s the Seattle Process I’d like to do away with.

  • Elaine Ike September 22, 2015 (3:49 pm)

    Properties the size of the Dakota Substation are having up to 4 “box homes” built on them in Ballard which are the sold for around $700,000 a piece, hardly affordable housing. (Trees are clear cut.) The Dakota lot alone provides a natural buffer between the new 3-story Genesee Hill School and attendant car and school bus traffic. It’s a lovely patch of ground which is part of the natural ecosystem of the neighborhood, a home to mature trees, birds and bunnies.

    By itself the lot is not large, but it is part of 400 plus acres of surplus property owned by our city, including a 35 acre set of tree canopy and wetlands on Myers Way. What Seattle Green Spaces Coalition is asking is to repurpose these lands for the public good as green open space, a Pea Patch, a community meeting space as Hyland Park needs, as affordable housing or any other public good. Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan goals for open space have not been met, and they won’t be met without a plan for our public lands.

    Once the land is gone, it’s gone.

  • bw September 23, 2015 (9:17 am)

    I vote for more tennis courts, bocce ball, volleyball, ect courts. With 30% of the population obese, we need to offer up and encourage citizens to move their bodies.

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