Dozens of Acres of SeaTac Trees At Risk

The Port of Seattle recently made the welcome announcement that it had removed a proposal from its Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) that would have replaced 11 acres of trees in North SeaTac Park with a parking lot.

But multiple other proposals within the SAMP that would destroy acres of trees in neighborhoods all around the park still exist. In addition, the Port’s Real Estate Strategic Plan (RESP) shows the future potential removal of 70 acres of trees in SeaTac - 31 of them within the park.

It's not easy to understand what level of tree destruction is contemplated by the Port of Seattle under these two plans. The documents from these plans that are discussed below indicate land areas for only some of the proposed projects - and do so in varying types of measurements. Although these documents are understood to be the most current, they may not be. And, even if they are, these plans are still under development and changes may have been made since they were published. In addition, other Port planning processes that would impact North SeaTac Park may be underway.

On 10/5/21, a query was sent to the Port asking for clarification. It can be read HERE.

SAMP Proposals: An Est. Minimum 20 Acres of Tree Loss Surrounding North SeaTac Park

This image, provided by the Port, shows the recently-revised version of the map on page 14 of the SAMP document, Attachment 1: Scoping Information.

Lot L06, the 11-acre parking lot that the petition objected to, is no longer on the map. But the aptly-named C02 and other sites labeled as C03, L05, L07, S7, and S10, represent acres of development on land now mostly covered in trees. This map doesn’t indicate square footage or acreage. But Figure 4-17 of SAMP Technical Memorandum 6 gives square footage (a total of 897,000 sq. ft.). This represents about 20 acres for three out of seven developments described on that map. The area for the other four is not provided.

Port Real Estate Strategic Plan: An Estimated 70 Additional Potential Acres of Tree Loss

The images to the left are two of several shown on pages 17-23 of a document entitled Real Estate Strategic Plan: Port Commission Study Session from July 26, 2016. They don’t show all proposals within the City of SeaTac.

Combined, SeaTac properties under consideration for development by the Port on these pages represent about 70 acres. 31 acres of them are within the 55-acre parcel inside of North SeaTac Park where Lot L06 was originally proposed.

In September 2021, the Port announced it would halt any planning on proposals within that 55-acre parcel until it completed an inventory of the parcel’s environmental and recreational attributes.

WA Environmental Health Disparities Map

Washington State’s Health Disparities Map shows that all of the neighborhoods directly surrounding North SeaTac Park have a risk score of 10 out of 10 for environmental health disparities. Low tree canopy contributes to these risks. SeaTac already has lower-than-average tree canopy.

Even if new trees were planted in a 3-1 ratio to replace the old, this would not begin to compensate the health, ecological, wildlife habitat, recreational, quality-of-life, or property value benefits provided by the existing mature forest. Its natural features are irreplaceable, integral elements of a vibrant community and a fragile regional forest which is veined and dotted with creeks, wetlands, lakes, a bog and many other attributes that cannot be re-created and that protect us all.

King County Heat Map

The lightest-colored area at the heart of the image to the left - adapted from the King County Heat Mapping Project, shows the coolest spot in SeaTac. That spot is within North SeaTac Park’s 55 acre parcel. Page 18 of the Port’s Real Estate Strategic Plan shows 31 of these acres to be “usable.”

In other words, Port planners are now contemplating the destruction of acres of trees in the coolest spot in our city - over creek tributaries and all around wetlands, a lake, and a bog. Urban heat harms human health. Climate change has made our summers hotter, dryer, and more polluted. These proposals would contribute to shorter life spans in our community.

How can the public give input on these proposals?

It is believed that all the SeaTac properties identified for development within the Port’s Real Estate Strategic Plan are still under consideration. However, two apparently contradictory pieces of information have yet to be reconciled:

  1. The Port updated this strategic plan in 2020, noting that these properties were not the focus of that update but were “now under the purview of the Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP).”

  2. In a 9/28/21 phone call, Clare Gallagher, Port of Seattle’s Public Affairs Director for Capital Project Delivery and Mike Merritt, Senior Policy Advisor for the Port, assured the organizer of the petition against the previously-proposed Lot L06 that there will be no other SAMP-related proposals within North SeaTac Park.

Public input on SAMP-related proposals can be submitted as part of the upcoming environmental review of that Plan. See the Action page of this site for more information. Opportunities for public input on the planning underway related to the Real Estate Strategic Plan are unknown to the author of this website at the current time.

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