What Trees are at Risk?


In response to a community petition, the Port of Seattle announced in August, 2021, that it had removed a proposal from its Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) to replace 11 acres of trees in North SeaTac Park with a parking lot.

But Port documents, including the SAMP and Real Estate Strategic Plan (RESP) reveal the existence of other agency proposals and recommendations to swap out trees for industrial structures on an estimated 110 acres in near-airport neighborhoods (an area equal to about 100 football fields.) Thirty-one acres would be inside North SeaTac Park.


The maps below show proposals near and inside North SeaTac Park

I.  Proposals Near North SeaTac Park

Three maps, below, show selected Port proposals to replace trees with industrial structures:

  1. North and West of SeaTac Airport Shows about 50 acres of proposals (Note the compass points on this map - indicating that it has been rotated.)

  2. Riverton Heights Neighborhood - Details Shows more information about proposed developments in this neighborhood

  3. Southwest SeaTac “Port of Seattle Proposal for 27.7 acres of Industrial Development on Forested Land in Southwest SeaTac”


                                     North and West of SeaTac Airport

Based on a Port of Seattle map of SAMP proposals

Riverton Heights Neighborhood - Details

Based on a Port of Seattle map of RESP proposals

The figure below shows over 70 acres of proposed development in and near North SeaTac Park and in the Riverton Heights neighborhood. The 13-acre site south of North SeaTac Park appears to be a slightly different version of 17 acres of proposals for this site shown on the SAMP map.

Sources: Real Estate Strategic Plan, Port of Seattle, August, 2021 (p 14);  Real Estate Strategic Plan Study Session presentation, Port of Seattle, July, 2016 (pp 16-22)

Southwest SeaTac

Based on a Port of Seattle map of RESP proposals

II.  Development Inside North SeaTac Park

340,000 Square Feet of “aviation supportive uses”

The Port of Seattle has stated that it has no plans to develop inside North SeaTac Park. But its 2020 RESP, published in August 2021, recommends 340,000 square feet of “aviation supportive uses” and a “food innovation center,”  within the 55-acre (in-park) parcel shown to the left. The entire park is zoned Aviation Commercial. By agreement with the City of SeaTac, the 55-acre parcel can be removed from park use “at any time”.

Image from Port of Seattle’s July 26, 2016 Real Estate Strategic Plan Study Session presentation

Historical Background

In the 1970s and 80s, neighborhoods north and south of SeaTac Airport, including homes, businesses, and public schools, were removed to accommodate airport expansion that would soon make the area uninhabitable.

At the time, facing intense and widespread public dismay related to the destruction of these neighborhoods, the Port of Seattle and King County informed the public that the majority of this land - hundreds of acres north and south of the airport - would:

“primarily be devoted to open-type uses upon removal of the incompatible single-family residences now in existence. These planned open uses include agriculture, parks, landscaped buffer areas, nature trails, golf courses, and other recreational activities such as soccer, rugby, field archery, horseback riding, and water sports.”

A map included in the brochure that contained this quote indicated with olive green coloring the large areas of land earmarked for this use. (Brochure, SeaTac Communities Plan; Map: “Land Use Plan: Airport and Vicinity,” Port of Seattle and King County, 1976)

For decades, the public was presented with other documents supporting these expectations that this land would be reserved primarily for natural and recreational land uses, to "maintain the beauty and natural character of the area," and to save "as many trees, ponds, and natural greenbelts as possible.”  These documents included the Sea-Tac Communities Plan (1976), King County’s Comprehensive Plan (via Ordinance 2883), the Highline Community Plan (1977), the North SeaTac Master Plan Update (1987), King County Ordinance 8996 (1989), and the North SeaTac Park Master Plan (1992).

North SeaTac Park was especially perceived as protected. As late as 2016, an FAA audit noted information from the Port of Seattle that the park had been created, “to compensate area residents for lative airport impacts.”  

The current proposals for developments near the airport shown on this page are within these areas that, based on this information provided by the Port and King County, were long expected by the public to be reserved for recreational and ecological use.

Although this information provided to the public may not have created legally binding commitments, they are widely perceived to have reduced public opposition to the destruction of these neighborhoods.

North SeaTac Park Agreements

Click on map for a larger version

This North SeaTac Agreements map, provided by Port of Seattle Customer Care in a 4/21/21 email, shows that most of the park is leased to the City of SeaTac by the Port of Seattle only until 2070.

These intra-local agreements and the park’s current zoning, which is Aviation Commercial, would allow the Port to eventually develop the entire park.

55 acres within the park - which appear on the map as a yellow and red-hatched area labeled with the number 5 - can be removed from park use “at any time”, as per a 1997 Intra local agreement between the Port and the City of SeaTac.

The 11-acre airport employee parking lot proposal that was the subject of the 2021 community petition was sited within this 55-acre parcel.  So is the current proposal by the Port to develop 31.5 acres within the park.


© 2024

Facebook icon
Instagram icon
Intuit Mailchimp logo