The following is a letter from Tony Vo, director of White Center Community Development Association, and Elaine Ike, co-chair of Seattle Green Spaces Coalition. It is a response from WCCDA and SGSC to FAS and Councilmember Herbold and Councilmember Harrell who represent nearby communities to the Myers Parcels.
Dear Mr. Bretzke:
Your report raises serious concerns for our organizations. We ask that you stop the Myers Parcels sale process, and engage the South Park and White Center communities in envisioning the best use of this public land for their public benefit. This civic outreach aligns with Mayor Murray’s Equity and Environmental Action Agenda. The communities of color, immigrants, the elderly, low income and others in these areas live uphill from the Duwamish River, one of America’s worst Superfund sites. They also suffer elevated levels of illness, as they breathe the worst quality air in Seattle.
More than half the residents here do not speak or read English; for some, it’s a second language. Yet the City’s Finance & Administrative Services (FAS) Department issued its formal Notice of Excess Property (Jan. 15, 2016), and its Preliminary Recommendations for Myers Parcels (June 15, 2016) only in English, and to a limited area in the extensive communities that will be affected by the proposed Myers sale. To do effective community outreach, FAS must inform the non-English speaking majority of residents, by offering notices in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali. So far, FAS has effectively disenfranchised huge swaths of the local population.
The 33 acres of Myers Parcels is the largest tract of undeveloped land that the City of Seattle owns. It holds origins of Hamm Creek, and a second creek – parts of the most fragile link in Chinook Salmon Recovery, and within the Duwamish River Superfund area. Its forested and wetland areas provide habitat, green buffer, and ecosystem service benefits for the White Center, Highland Park, South Park, Roxbury, Delridge and Georgetown communities, and for the City of Seattle. The Myers Parcels forest helps clean the area’s air and reduce atmospheric carbon. It is also historically significant to the Duwamish Tribe.
FAS recommends using the area south of the Joint Training Facility for an expanded parking lot and a commercial warehouse operation, and retaining the wetlands and critical slope above SR 509 that can’t be developed. This FAS top-down recommendation runs contrary to Mayor Murray’s Equity and Environmental Action Agenda, which calls for grassroots, community-driven planning. Rather than rush into a sale, the city should fully engage the local communities in a visioning process that considers their best interests.
Page 3 of the FAS Preliminary Recommendation Report portrays the West Duwamish Greenbelt as usable park space. This is misleading. The Greenbelt is filled with large trees and thick undergrowth, lacks trails, and is unusable for public recreation. The entrance for Westcrest Park is not within walking distance for community residents near Myers.
Residents of South Park, eastern White Center, and Arrowhead Gardens need accessible green space, improved air and water quality, access to product and service providers and/or existing retail cores, and green jobs. Instead, the city plans to reduce green space and walkability, and degrade air and water quality with parking lots, warehouses, and truck operations. It will not improve accessibility to what residents need, and offers no assurances that proposed commercial operations will produce green jobs for underemployed local residents.
In a recent survey by the White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA), White Center residents expressed concern about access to employment, despite living nearby the South Park, Georgetown, SoDo industrial areas. There are ways to combine economic opportunity and environmental sustainability, and support a green economy for Seattle’s future. Adding warehousing and trucking operations neither provides this, nor addresses residents’ concerns.
There is a wide range of “greener” options for Myers Parcels – an organic farming cooperative with a mission to support small local produce stands and ethnic grocery stores; a manufacturing facility for clean tech products or compostable goods; an environmental education center an ADA-accessible park for Arrowhead Gardens; and more possibilities.
This FAS plan also does not keep the Myers watershed healthy, or help to restore the Duwamish River and promote salmon habitat. It makes no sense to degrade a watershed that feeds the Duwamish River, when we’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars to clean that river up. The FAS Dept. has also ignored our “Save Myers Parcels” petition, which has garnered more than 1100 signatures and nearly 500 comments, and support from a growing number of individuals and community associations.
We call on the City to stop this sale, withdraw the FAS recommendation, and fully engage local communities in determining the future of this site. A new assessment of current and future Myers ecosystem value and benefits must also be done, as the current study has expired. We urge the city to retain and develop Myers Parcels as usable public space to benefit all of our communities.
Director, White Center Promise, White Center Community Development Association
Co-Chair, Seattle Green Spaces Coalition