By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Eight months after the Sound Transit Board decided to add the “Yancy/Andover Elevated” route to the list of possibilities, some of the West Seattleites who might be in its path are just learning about it.
A group of neighbors in the area west of Avalon Way, including 32nd SW, is meeting weekly to talk about it, and more than 50 of them had an online meeting with Sound Transit reps this past Monday night. We were invited to cover it.
They’re not trying to derail light rail – but they want to understand this potential alignment, how it would affect their neighborhood, and how best to get involved in the review process.
“It feels really terrible to suddenly find out that your house or condo might be taken away from you,” said neighbor M in opening remarks. She expressed frustration that they hadn’t had direct contact from ST, with many feeling “marginalized and concerned” that they were just now finding out about the Yancy/Andover option.
It was a late addition to what’s being officially considered, added in October (WSB coverage here), with support from – among others – a vocal group of Youngstown-area residents who were worried about other alternatives taking out their homes. The board added it despite ST staff’s warning that piling another alternative onto the stack that was already in for environmental studies would delay the Draft Environmental Impact Statement’s release from the end of this year to the first quarter of next year. One attractive point of Yancy/Andover: It wasn’t expected to cost extra.
This option officially emerged last September (WSB coverage here), almost four months after the board finalized what it wanted to send into environmental studies, while directing staff to “assess” a few other possibilities to potentially add to those studies. An “online open house” ensued once those assessments were made public,
So now, halfway through the year that ST is devoting to initial environmental studies of potential West Seattle “alignments,” the Avalon neighbors are catching up. Inviting ST to last Monday’s meeting was a kickoff to what they hope will be an ongoing conversation with the transit system. Starting things off was ST’s Leda Chahim, who used this slide deck:
Note the caveat “project scope and schedule subject to change” – that’s a nod to the realignment process we’ve been covering, with the possibility of delays or even downsizing because of a big drop in revenue; the ST Board isn’t going to make a realignment decision until this time next year, though, so it’s continuing to plan projects including the West Seattle extension that were part of the ST3 plan passed by voters in 2016.
Chahim recapped the process so far, including that October decision to study the Yancy/Andover option too. It would cross the Duwamish River south of the West Seattle Bridge, would have a Delridge station north of Andover – similar to the original ST proposal – and would connect to an elevated Avalon station
What happens next? ST’s Zack Ambrose took the baton there. The next milestone is publishing the draft EIS early next year, with a 45-day comment period. The final EIS in 2022 will be followed by a board decision of what alignment to build – at least that’s the current timeline, if realignment doesn’t push it back.
ST’s Jason Hampton explained what’s being studied in the draft EIS. He showed the options being considered specifically in these neighbors’ area of interest, including points such as noting that elevated stations – such as the one this alignment would place along Delridge between Dakota and Andover – would be “30 to 50 feet [high] at the platform.”
Displacement – a major concern for this group – is part of what the DEIS will address. Late this year, before the DEIS is published, ST will send “the first of many letters” to potentially affected property owners. There would be notification after the DEIS too, as well as another round once the board finalizes “the project to be built.”
ST’s property specialist Mike Bulzomi went through how the acquisition process works (as he had for another group in March 2019), with the caveat that “we’re quite a ways away” from that process actually begins. What ST offers includes relocation support, moving expenses, more. They would pay the difference if a comparable house you bought cost more than your house sold for. For renters, they would cover the differential cost – assuming your new apartment rented for more than your old one – for 3 1/2 years.
Then it was Q&A time.
Q: What about the West Seattle Bridge closure – could the light-rail bridge be combined with a replacement? Chahim said that much remains to be looked at before any such consideration, and also noted again that the ST realignment process could throw any timeline synergy into question.
Q: Why was the West Seattle Bridge/Fauntleroy option not considered? A: The potential station location wouldn’t have worked out.
Q: Would the “preferred alternative” cut into the golf course? A: There are multiple Genesee alternatives being studied – one that does affect the golf course a bit, one that does not.
Q: Would the Avalon path knock down apartment buildings? How do they decide between that and knocking down hoses? A: A variety of data they’ll have with the DEIS next year helps inform that process.
Q: How would the line cross Fauntleroy Way in the cut-station option? A: It would be “below the roadway, under 35th.”
Q: Was there public comment on the Yancy/Andover option? A: It was added by the board, to be studied, and the next round of public comment is after the DEIS is published, Chahim said.
Q: Are property addresses listed in publicly available DEIS materials, for possibly affected properties? A: Bulzomi said parcel #’s are usually the identification used, not the street addresses.
As the meeting wrapped up, neighbors – more than 60 had joined by the meeting’s end – asked for more technical details. This was “the first blush of a conversation,” as it was summarized. They hope to meet again with ST soon to dig more deeply into what it would mean for their neighborhood if the Yancy/Andover alignment is what the board decides to build – a decision that’s at least two years away.