VIDEO: Sound Transit might start buying property early for West Seattle/Ballard project

In case you didn’t get to watch it on Friday afternoon, that video shows the two-hour workshop held for the Sound Transit Board‘s System Extension Committee, looking ahead to July’s decisions on the West Seattle/Ballard expansion project. We watched it in real time; it was mostly an overview of the potential routing and station locations studied in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, as well as a brief mention of the possible cost-saving measures recently presented to the Community Advisory Groups. (Here’s the slide deck.)

We heard one noteworthy point during the workshop – when the topic of rising costs arose, particularly real estate, Sound Transit staff noted that they’re likely to propose “early property acquisition” after the board locks in on a “preferred alternative” in July. We immediately asked ST a followup question for more details on that, and finally got an answer this evening:

Potential early acquisitions would be reviewed and considered following the Board’s action to confirm or modify a preferred alternative later this year. There are a number of factors that the Board would consider before authorizing early acquisitions and potential acquisitions would likely be limited to a small subset of critical properties. Sound Transit would also require approval from the Federal Transit Administration prior to pursuing early acquisitions and would be required to follow all standard procedures.

The aforementioned board action is expected to happen at their July 28th meeting, but that’s still not the final decision on what will be built – the timeframe for that is now described as “late 2023,” after the final EIS is out. Key things to watch for before the July meeting include a summary of the 5,000+ public comments received on the DEIS; board members were told to look for that in June. Also, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell – an ST Board member – said at Friday’s meeting that the city soon will finalize its position on the preferred alternative (City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, said today that could come to his committee in early June).

27 Replies to "VIDEO: Sound Transit might start buying property early for West Seattle/Ballard project"

  • morgan May 23, 2022 (8:57 pm)

    You mean they haven’t yet? Excellent timing. Peak of property market just about to crest with higher interest rates. Just wonderful timing, bravo.

  • Kalo May 23, 2022 (9:29 pm)

    Flashback: to when the Monorail was coming to WS. Properties were bought up and torn down. Families and small businesses lost their homes and livelihoods for bupkis. Not to mention the  monorail surcharge added to our car tabs. Wonder where that money went??

    • WSB May 23, 2022 (11:18 pm)

      The properties were sold to pay off the cost of buying them, and other costs the project ran up before it ended.

  • Wseattleite May 23, 2022 (9:59 pm)

    I truly hope this project does disrupt bus service in the future. Currently I can board a bus within a 5 minute walk of my dwelling and get off downtown where I need to go. The light rail will in no way help my commute. I really hope that bus service is not going to be restricted. 

    • Pessoa May 25, 2022 (7:04 am)

      Nor will light rail increase access to public transportation.  Supporters have been swept away by the idea of light rail, not it’s actual benefits.   

  • Derek May 23, 2022 (11:54 pm)

    Speed this up! I’m sorry for the few who lose homes but this is for the the greater community. You will have your property bought at market. There’s no injustice here. Cars are destroying the planet and unaffordable. Electric cars cost too much and gas is obscene. We need trains all over. And more electric buses.

    • flimflam May 24, 2022 (6:23 am)

      THey may get “market” for their home but it may cost even more to relocate in the city. Also, maybe they don’t want to leave their homes that they have worked hard on, gardens, etc?

    • Jethro Marx May 24, 2022 (6:55 am)

      If you took the total amount Sound Transit has spent you could buy a couple of electric cars for every household in the taxing district. That’s not a suggestion, just the way the money bounces. So, stuff’s expensive all over. And some of those bought out, even at market rates, will not be able to stay in the neighborhood. But, as you say, it’s “for the greater good.” (A dangerous sentiment, if ever there were one.) I am sure you won’t let that get in the way of your ideology of “this good/that bad because progressive.” 

      • Jort May 24, 2022 (8:44 am)

        Just wait until you find out how many “cars per household” could have been purchased for the astronomical price of the freeways and roads that occupy the vast majority of non-park public land in the taxing district.  

        • Jethro Marx May 24, 2022 (12:26 pm)

          Your fervor has led you to miss the point. I could have said instead, Sound Transit could have paid each household a princely sum if only they agreed to give up their cars. But what I actually meant was, electric cars are not expensive, compared to infrastructure projects like ST.

        • My two cents May 25, 2022 (12:43 am)

          But Jort I don’t understand. How would more cars do per household be better if we don’t have the roads? Two cars for me would be more enough for me, so I’m good with moving forward .

          • derek May 25, 2022 (1:47 pm)

            I don’t think you got Jort’s point. He’s not saying that at all. 

  • DLC May 24, 2022 (9:42 am)

    I hate to tell  you, but, a homeowner wil NOT get market value for their home.

  • HappyCamper May 24, 2022 (9:49 am)

    It most surely does suck to be forced to move. I feel for the people that will be impacted by that because home is home and that can be a lot of stress and impact schools, commutes, etc.On the other hand though and as far as “progress” is concerned what are we supposed to do as a city or a group of people? There will most likely be some negative impact to any (presumably) net positive proposal/action. I feel like the best that can be done is to go as far as possible to fully compensate people fairly (whatever that is) that are affected by projects like this.I’m not taking sides at all just saying it’s complicated. And I feel like in Seattle a lot of times everything is stalled for what seems like forever due to a lack of pragmatism and compromise as a whole.Not the best example but it’s like a group of 8 people deciding where to go for dinner. They’re all hungry and all want to go out for dinner. 5 want pizza, 2 want sushi and 1 wants Italian. They all want to eat but don’t want the same thing. So instead of coming to a compromise they just cancel dinner plans altogether and never go out. Seems like the Seattle process overall to me.

    • Don May 24, 2022 (11:11 am)

      This is something that occurs everywhere not just Seattle. Luckily the tiny few don’t overrule that many many many many that get benefits from mass transit, including our planet. 

    • ARPigeonPoint May 24, 2022 (3:42 pm)

      The Port could have been a good neighbor and allowed light rail to be built on the north side of the bridge, thereby saving our Pigeon Point homes. Or a tunnel option could have been seriously considered. 

      • HappyCamper May 24, 2022 (6:49 pm)

        That does seem pretty lame. I do wonder though if it also has something to do with station locations, grade changes and turning radius to make it where it needs to go.Rail can only ascend and descend a certain amount of slope and needs quite a ways to make a turn in combination with that which also has to be aligned with our hilly topography. I’m not defending the port just admitting my own ignorance as to how it works and acknowledging it’s probably more complicated than I, a lay person realize.

  • Joe Z May 24, 2022 (12:22 pm)

    It’s all fine until it’s YOUR house and YOUR neighborhood that’s being demolished. There’s no reason why any houses or the Transitional Resources buildings have to be acquired for this project. The “Medium Tunnel” alternative (which is the favorite to become the preferred alternative) can be modified by moving the tunnel portal downhill from the current planned location (37th and Fauntleroy) to the NE side of Yancy and Avalon. The track can run alongside Nucor and then go underground. The majority of households in the 32nd/Genesee corridor have signed a letter asking Sound Transit to study a longer tunnel along the Yancy/Andover alternative. If they do not adequately respond to this request, additional actions will be taken. We are not going to simply roll over when an option exists for a lower impact design without these property acquisitions. There have never been large scale residential property acquisitions for Sound Transit within the city of Seattle, this is the first time they are attempting to do this. Both ST1 and ST2 projects were designed to avoid this situation and the expectation is that ST3 will be modified accordingly. 

    • Sergio June 1, 2022 (12:42 am)

      It will also look nicer for the city over the long term. This is a multi generational investment. 

  • CarDriver May 24, 2022 (5:12 pm)

    I too feel for the people and businesses forced out. Neither will be fully compensated for their displacement. Commenters here saying it’s “needed progress” only have credibility if THEY’RE also being displaced. Otherwise, you’re simply gloating “glad it’s you and not me” 

    • Pessoa May 25, 2022 (9:05 am)

      If everyone had “skin in the game,”  we’d all live in a much different, and perhaps more just, society.   

  • Unsure in PigeonPoint May 24, 2022 (6:36 pm)

    Is there a more updated list of “affected properties” than the one published online from 2019?

    • Andy J May 26, 2022 (4:09 pm)

      There are maps in one of the appendixes to the DEIS. Appendix J I think. I think if your house is on the current list you’d have received a letter. Personally, I can’t believe it’s going to take 100-150 years just to break even on the carbon footprint caused by constructing this thing, and that’s according to Sound Transits DEIS figures. I was quite pro it until I read the DEIS. Now, I don’t really think it’s about the environment tbh, I think it’s just a politician vote winner and fundraiser. They can point to wealthy West Seattlites and say “see we delivered you light rail”. Meanwhile those people that actually needed mass transit most, but don’t have dollars to give in campaigns, are left out or worse are down in Delridge getting their house built over. Mass transit is great, and it should go where it needs to go and be appropriate to the geography of that place. This does neither of those as far as I can tell.According to the DEIS it’s going to shave a massive 8 minutes maximum off the C-line journey to downtown from Alaska jct. 8 minutes!?! Probably less given you’ll have to change trains at SODO and have to descend several escalators at Alaska jct before you even reach a train. And Definitely less if you get the bus from anywhere along SW Avalon, or if you have to get the multiple escalators into the sky at Delridge to go just one stop before you have to get off, wait and get on another train, and then go a few more stops.  Billions of dollars for 8 minutes?????? While people are literally dying in the street from drug overdoses??? Give me a break.

  • DC May 25, 2022 (9:14 am)

    What happens when they buy it? Can former owners choose to continue living there/operating their businesses there until property is actually needed? Or will we have more vacant lots dilapidating for years. 

  • tonenotvolume May 25, 2022 (2:30 pm)

    Great questions, hope they get answered soon.

  • Pessoa May 26, 2022 (8:19 am)

    FMV is only partially determined by market forces, the rest by governmental monetary intervention.   What the government giveth – the “juiced” value of your house – the government taketh away.  

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