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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) that would have replaced 11 acres of trees in North SeaTac Park with a parking lot.

But multiple other proposals and recommendations within the SAMP and the Port’s Real Estate Strategic Plan (RESP) show that this community is at risk of losing an estimated 107+ acres of mostly tree-covered land - 31.5 acres inside the park and 70+ acres in neighborhoods all around it.

Background

In the 1970s and 80s, neighborhoods north and south of the Airport, including homes, businesses, and public schools, were removed to accommodate airport expansion that would soon make the area uninhabitable. These north and south acquisition areas, as they were referred to in planning documents, appear in dark green on a map, shown here, which the Port distributed to the public at the time. (Labels and red markings have been added.) All 200+ acres of North SeaTac Park are within the north acquisition area.

A brochure entitled SeaTac Communities Plan, which contained this map, informed the public that:

“The north and south areas earmarked for acquisition by the Sea-Tac Communities Plan will 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.”

For decades, plans to reserve these areas for primarily natural and recreational land uses and to "maintain the beauty and natural character of the area," for example, "saving as many trees, ponds, and natural greenbelts as possible,” were published in documents including 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).

This map is excerpted from a brochure on the SeaTac Communities Plan published by the Port and King County in 1976. It was downloaded from the SeaTac Airport Noise and Pollution website at https://seatacnoise.info/sea-tac-communities-plan/ Click on the map to see a larger version.

Trying to Understand the Big Picture

Today, the earnest and even celebratory assurances of past decades that land around the airport would be kept in open space use for residents appear to be forgotten.

But how much deforestation is likely to be in store for the community near SeaTac Airport if the Port doesn’t heed calls to save local forests?

It’s hard to know. Some Port proposals for development on tree-covered land appear in both the SAMP and RESP, some in only one. For some proposals, the Port provides square footage. For others it provides acreage. For others, no measurements are provided. Additionally, while these plans remain under development, the public is not allowed access to them. This table shows one resident’s attempt to sum up total proposed tree destruction in the SAMP and RESP.

A mile-high view

This image, adapted from a 2016 presentation by the Port on its RESP, shows several proposed projects in the north and south acquisition areas. The box and label for the Westside Maintenance campus has been added.

Inside the Park

The Port of Seattle has recently stated that it has no plans to develop inside North SeaTac Park. But the Port’s 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 here. As noted below, the entire park is zoned Aviation Commercial and, by intra-local agreement with the City of SeaTac, the 55-acre parcel can be removed from park use “at any time”.

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.

info@KCTreeEquity.org

© 2022

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