The Port of Seattle owns North SeaTac Park and the City of SeaTac leases the park from the Port.
In 2021, SeaTac Councilmember Peter Kwon initiated discussions with the Port on the feasibility of the City taking ownership of the park in order to protect it as a park. (1) In January 2022, Mayor Jake Simpson requested that the City pursue this matter and, recently, City Manager Carl Cole wrote to Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck requesting that he seek a written Order from the Port Commission directing Port of Seattle staff to also explore the feasibility of transferring the ownership of North SeaTac Park to the City of SeaTac. (2)
At the July 12, 2022 Port of Seattle meeting, Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed provided comments on the matter of what government agency would be most suited to own and care for the park. She stated that the City of SeaTac has had the primary responsibility for caring for the park and that it is filled with invasive weeds. (3)
North SeaTac Park’s forest is significantly impacted by invasive weeds. If this invasion is not addressed, we will continue to lose trees. Both the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac have made significant investments to address this problem. But a much larger investment, (4) made as part of a comprehensive forest restoration plan, would be needed to restore this forest to ecological health. That investment would be more fiscally prudent for the City to undertake if the park were not zoned commercial aviation, (5) if a large portion of the park were not subject to being removed from park status “at any time”, (6) and if the Port did not have longstanding plans to commercially develop it. (7)
We thank Commissioner Mohamed for acknowledging the park’s importance in her statement and for taking action to protect it by prioritizing a budget item to conduct an ecological risk assessment of all 200+ acres. We’re pleased to learn from both her statement and a recent written statement from the Port that although “there have been conceptual site considerations from the Port’s Real Estate department for the 55-Acre Parcel … no specific proposals have come forward for review.” (8)
However, those conceptual site considerations, which include “340,000 square feet of aviation supportive use” and a food innovation center, (9) can be brought to life at any time. The conceptual site considerations that the Port has for inside North SeaTac Park have been moved from the Port’s Strategic Plan and into the purview of its Sustainable Airport Master Plan (10) Proposals in that plan can be under development for months or even years before they are released to the public. As long as the park’s zoning remains Commercial Aviation and, until the Port of Seattle provides written and legally binding assurances that it will not expand SeaTac Airport operations inside the park or commercially develop it, or until the City owns the park and makes such assurances, the park is at risk.
Regardless of ownership questions, the Defenders of North SeaTac Park stands by its call in the Community Forest Consensus for the park to be legally secured as a park in perpetuity, for the Port to halt its additional plans under the Sustainable Airport Master Plan to remove dozens of acres of trees near the park, (10) and for a comprehensive forest plan to restore adequate tree canopy for near-airport residents is enacted and funded. (11) A meaningful - and publicly transparent - exploration between the City and the Port on park ownership issues could help move this matter forward to a conclusion that benefits the public.
Any transfer in ownership must be done in a way that legally binds all parties to protecting the park against commercial development, funding restoration of its natural spaces, and placing it in permanent park status.
City Council approves resolution to allow SeaTac to explore acquiring North SeaTac Park, City of SeaTac Blog, May 11, 2022 https://cityofseatac.wordpress.com/2022/05/11/city-council-approves-resolution-to-allow-seatac-to-explore-acquiring-north-seatac-park/
Letter from SeaTac City Manager Carl Cole to Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck, May 31, 2022 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ioZfuyx5Tua6KIQHEo_utno0NYy8rh1R/view?usp=sharing
July 12, 2022 Regular meeting of the Port of Seattle Comments by Port Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed from 3:53:10 – 3:56:59 https://meetings.portseattle.org/watch/meeting/2022_07_12_RM Read a written transcription of these comments here.
Green SeaTac Urban Forest Enhancement Guide, Forterra, City of SeaTac, Port of Seattle, 2019. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NKfENywJPy52ZTpVgnnvC_SuHvbk9__h/view
City of SeaTac Zoning Map https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dutjl7jpwZujdRQ9E5q-3a-mZ8Z0ZirD/view
North SeaTac Agreements – Draft, City of SeaTac, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Q1FjloqC_NKQJ6ZF0pbJL4pYB4qbNhmM/view
Real Estate Commission Strategic Plan, Port Commission Study Session, 2016, pp. 18-20 https://meetings.portseattle.org/portmeetings/attachments/2016/2016_07_26_SS_5_supp.pdf
North SeaTac Park 55-Acre Parcel Inventory, prepared for Port of Seattle by Anchor QEA LLC, 2022 https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1iQ4yqnLYVzXTBDvLA6VAG3HwXRWqVfVB
Port of Seattle Real Estate Strategic Plan 2020, p. 15. https://www.portseattle.org/sites/default/files/2021-10/2020_Real_Estate_Strategic_Plan.pdf
Map on page 14 of Attachment 1, Scoping Information, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Sustainable Airport Master Plan Near Term Projects Environmental Review Process https://sampntpenvironmentalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/SAMP_NTP_EnvrReview_ScopingReport_FINAL_Attachment
Information on pages 17-22 of the Real Estate Commission Strategic Plan document cited in #7, above.
A footnote on page 14 of the Port of Seattle 2020 Real Estate Strategic Plan indicates that the North SeaTac properties discussed in the Real Estate Commission Strategic Plan document cited in #7 above are now under the purview of the Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP).
Community Forest Consensus, Defenders of North SeaTac Park, 2022, https://KCTreeEquity.org/consensus